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Transgender / Transformation stories in English
		An Untold Tale of Scheherazade

		Verses from "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam"

		Prologue

 		  The worldly hope men set their hearts upon 
		  Turns ashes -- or it prospers; and anon,
 		  Like snow upon the 	desert's dusty face 
		  Lighting a little hour or two -- is gone.

 		"I am the maid Scheherazade, teller of tales.  Many are the 
	wonders of the East, but in all the lands of the Faithful, what story is 
	more marvelous than that of Prince Ali and the Magic Fountain?

		"Many years ago, a good emir by the name of Haroon held 
	court in the royal city of Damascus.  Allah the Bountiful blessed this 
	noble-hearted monarch with a son and a daughter -- Ali, strong, and 
	honest, and Ayeesha, exquisite of form and possessing eyes which 
	might captivate even the djinn of the desert.  

		"Ali, obedient and dutiful, agreed to marry the beautiful 
	princess Badiat, the daughter of the sultan of Edessa.  But his sister 
	Ayeesha, alas, was headstrong and refused many wealthy suitors.  
	Though the emir was kindly and patient, it rended his heart that he 
	had reached his elderly years and as yet had no grandchild to dandle 
	in his arms.

		"Upon the day that the caravan of Princess Badiat arrived in 
	Damascus, the common people of Damascus thronged the streets 
	joyously.  But, alas, of all the emir's subjects, one of them did not 
	rejoice.  

		"For many years, the Emir Haroon had been well-advised by 
	Rasheed, his high-minded vizier.  Unfortunately, after Rasheed was 
	taken to Paradise, his clever son, Lord Achmed, was elevated to his 
	sire's place in the emir's councils.  Though Achmed was a man of 
	wit, accomplishment, and charm, he nursed a wicked heart and a 
	secret ambition.  This ambition, sad to say, was to tumble down the 
	ancient dynasty of Haroon and mount the gilded throne in Ali's stead.  
	To take the coveted scepter by means of guile, the crafty vizier 
	realized that he must first eliminate his youthful rival.     	     "To 
	achieve this evil end, Lord Achmed plotted long and hard.  Finally, 
	with the help of a devious and unscrupulous magician, Yusuf, he at 
	long last hit upon a cruel scheme.  And from this conspiracy of 
	scoundrels comes our tale."

		#

		Chapter One

			The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
			Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit
			Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
			Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

 	Yusuf the wizard climbed breathlessly to the topmost prison cell in 
Achmed's palace.  If his progress was slow, it may be said that not only his 
years, but also his weight and his burden were against him.  
Notwithstanding, he at last reached the highest landing of the tower, at which 
point he met a bewhiskered jailor who offered a humble greeting:

	"Sire, may Allah shower his blessings upon your gray head."

	The wizard gave a tired sigh and looked anxiously past the man and at 
the prison door.  "Is the Crusader dog prepared?"

	"He has been bound, wise mullah," the man answered with a bow.

	"Good.  Speak not a word of what you may discover after I depart.  
This is the business of the lofty lords, and their doings will often result in 
severed heads for the indiscreet!"

	"Yes, Great One!"  The man nodded emphatically, for he knew this 
fact to be true.

	"Unlock the door, and then return to the guard room until I call you 
back."

	The jailor did as told and the fleshy wizard waddled wearily into the 
dimly-lit cell.  There, he set his burden, a bucket of water, down upon the 
straw-strewn floor and straightened himself.

	He looked about with frowning, ferret eyes.  The cell, he observed, 
was not the worst that Achmed, the cruel vizier, owned.  It possessed a cot, 
table, stool, basin, and a window letting in the morning light.  Many a noble 
captive of war had been held for ransom in that selfsame tower.  These days, 
as the Crusader armies struggled with the Sons of the Faithful the length and 
breadth of the Holy Land, it was occasionally used so again.  

	Chains rattled and Yusuf turned to regard the Frankish knight fettered 
to the wall.  This was a tow-headed young man with light-colored stubble on 
firm cheeks.  The sorcerer judged him to be well-born, but Achmed had 
eschewed the claim to ransom.  Instead, if this morning's experiment was 
successful, the scion of distant France would simply vanish from the face of 
the earth.  

	The noble son muttered an oath against his visitor, though he had no 
inkling of the stranger's intentions.  Yusuf ignored the indecipherable insult 
while he took a small vial from his scrip.  This he unstopped and poured its 
clear liquid contents into the bucket of well-water.  Very carefully then, lest 
some of the polluted mix slosh upon his legs, the portly conjurer picked up 
the pail, placed one hand under its bottom rim, and slowly brought it back for 
a mighty cast. . . .

		#

 	Lord Achmed was a connoisseur of many things, women not least of 
all.  He had taken no wife, for his ambitions required a lady of royal rank and 
none were to be had.  Nonetheless, many an odalisque filled his harem.  But 
by his side this day reclined a blonde girl of great beauty, his most recent 
acquisition. 

	"You are the most lovely woman I have ever crushed to my chest," he 
told the concubine.  "What is your name?

	The girl looked up perplexedly.  "Sheba, Master.  Have you 
forgotten?"

	He gave a short, sharp laugh.  "Saucy one!  I have a hundred slave 
girls and dancers, so how may I remember every single one of them by 
name?!  Yet, I believe that I shall recollect your name after this, little Sheba.  
Tell me -- do you dance?"

	"No, my lord," Sheba replied with a shake of her head.  "I am only a 
peasant girl."

	Achmed touched her cheek.  "Nay, be not so humble.  You were born 
to dwell in the homes of the mighty, not ravage your peerless skin toiling 
under the remorseless sun."

	Sheba grimaced in sorrow.  "I would gladly give up house and beauty 
alike, if I might only return home!  My old parents need me.  The tax 
collectors seized me when my father could not pay all he owed.  Help us, 
Lord!"

	"What am I to do, foolish one?  Taxes must be paid or the kingdom 
will fall.  Besides, now that I have seen you, should I deny myself your 
presence?  'Tis a pity that you cannot dance, but I will have you trained!  As 
long as you please me, sweet Sheba, you shall have a comfortable home here 
in my harem."

	"As master wishes," the girl replied sadly.

	The handsome young official ran his manicured fingers through her 
silken hair.  "Your blond coloration beguiles me.  You are Circassian?"

	"Yes, mighty Lord," she nodded.  "My mother was the Circassian 
concubine of a wealthy merchant.  My father, a Circassian also, served in 
Emir Haroon's army.  One day he saw my mother to be drawing water from 
the public fountain and purchased her for a wife."

	Achmed grinned appreciatively.  "If your mother was then as lovely 
as you are today, it is easy to understand how a man might offer her marriage 
and respectability."

	"I do not know, sire," Sheba demurred.

	At that moment Achmed's chief steward, Mongi, entered the lord's 
hall and prostrated himself upon the porcelain tiles.

	"What is it, slave?  Why do you disturb me at such a time?"

	"The magician Yusuf waits without, O Master.  Shall I send him 
away?"

	Lines of anticipation drew themselves deeply across the vizier's 
features.  "No; send him before me.  But first, take these anemone blossoms 
away with you.  What may be said hereafter is not for such innocent ears."

	The steward rose, glanced to the cluster of women, and clapped his 
hands.  The concubines and dancing girls scrambled to their feet and 
followed after him like so many ducklings.  Achmed stood up and 
straightened his robes.  A moment later he heard the pad of heavy feet in satin 
slippers.

	"Achmed, Hawk of the Desert, Keeper of the Sword, Lord of --"

	"Spare me, Yusuf," Achmed said.  "I have no objection to flattery, 
except when it is perfunctory and insincere.  Give me the man who knows 
how to flatter from the heart, and I will make him great in this land."

	"I have happy news, Mighty One," pressed the wizard.

	Achmed arched his eyebrows.  "Was your -- experiment -- 
successful?"

	The older man drew an empty flask from his brocade robe.  "Very 
much so.  The effect was all that we could have hoped for!"

	"You tested it upon the Crusader?"

	"Yes, my lord."

	"Come! I must see the wretch!"

		# 

	A quarter-hour later, as they left the Crusader's cell, Achmed was 
rubbing his hands with glee.  "It is incredible!  Better far than simple 
assassination!  Unfortunately, it may be impossible for you to get close to 
Ali.  He is well-guarded and he does not trust you -- with good reason, I may 
add."

	Yusuf grinned proudly.  "I have traveled far and have acquired many 
amazing items of magic, Lord.  One of my finest is a magic jewel which 
makes the holder invisible to the human eye.  Ali will never know that I am 
near."

	Instead of showing pleasure, Achmed scowled.  "You have such a 
marvel and you have not told me?!"

	"I have only lately purchased it in Persia," the old man wheedled.

	Achmed shrugged.  "Then go swiftly, fool!  Do your job well, and I 
shall make you a wealthy man!"

	Yusuf bowed and backed away.  "I live to obey, Munificent Patron!"

	Left alone, Achmed returned to the cell to take a last look at the 
prisoner.  Then, with cruel satisfaction in the curl of his lips, he closed the 
heavy door and turned the key in the lock.

		#

	On their way to the emir's palace, Ali and his life-long friend Lord 
Hassan took the shortcut through the gardens.  Their conversation was 
suddenly cut short by a rope of silken sheets dropping down from above.  
They looked up at the summit of the garden wall.  

	"A thief!" muttered Hassan, gripping his sword hilt.

	But Ali's sharp ears picked out the sound of feminine breathing 
overhead.  "No -- it is a flight from the seraglio!  Hush!"

	The young men concealed themselves behind the hedge to observe.  A 
moment later, as a girl in harem garments climbed agilely to the ground, they 
pounced.  Her kohled eyes turned wildly upon the prince as he lay hold of 
her.

	"Ayeesha!" Ali shouted in recognition.  "What are you doing away 
from the women's quarters?"

	"Unhand me, Brother!" she demanded.  "I would see the caravan of 
Princess Badiat parade through the town.  Everyone else is free to do so, 
except us prisoners of the harem!"

	"If you would be so adventurous," Ali admonished, "at least be not 
so shameless.  Cover your face!"

	She raised her chin defiantly and met his stern eyes.  "Cover your 
own, Brother!  Is my face more shameful than yours?"

	Hassan averted his gaze, for no decent man permitted himself to look 
at a princess' unveiled visage.  "Ah, perhaps I should leave you two alone?" 
he suggested.

	Ali answered without looking back.  "Yes, it is well that you do, 
Hassan.  Join me at the hawk cages after I make my daily call upon the emir, 
my father."

	When Hassan had vanished around the corner, he felt more at liberty 
to discuss his sister's misdeed.  "Ayeesha, explain yourself!"

 	She folded her sleek arms peevishly.  "I am tired of being cooped up 
and treated like a child!  If you were me, would you not feel the same?"

	He shook his head in exasperation.  "It is your own fault that your life 
is idle and unfulfilling, Sister.  Had you taken a husband, as Father has 
wanted, you would now be the mistress of your own home."

 	She threw up her hands.  "Marriage would change nothing, except the 
face of my jailer."

	He took her shoulders and brought her around to face him.  "He 
would be no jailer!  He would be thy lover and thy mate.  He would treasure 
thee above all the gold of the earth."

	"And imprison me, too, just like the gold of the earth.  I wish I were a 
peasant woman.  Such as they can at least walk.  Better still, I would be a 
dancing girl out among song and laughter."

	"You are blessed to be the daughter of the mightiest ruler in Syria.  
Why canst thou not be grateful that Allah has blessed thee?"

	"Because it's not fair, Ali!  You simply do not understand.  Being a 
princess is nothing like being a prince.  You have everything and I have 
nothing."

	"You are wrong, little wren," he demurred, stroking his sister's 
cheek.  "Why do you think that I am more free than you?"

	"You are!  You are father's favorite, and his heir."

	He sighed.  "Would that I had an older brother to be both!  Being heir 
and favorite means that I must fulfill our father's onerous expectations.  And 
what is my reward?  Why should I crave to be emir?"

	"Thy fame shall live forever, Ali.  You can make all men obey thee!"

	He grinned ironically.  "Yes, all emirs are remembered.  Some are 
remembered for being sots or fools.  Even a good monarch must do many 
things of which he ought to be ashamed.  How would it serve my honor to 
levy high taxes upon people who already had little enough, or order a thief's 
hand lopped off?  Or send young men to die in battle -- perhaps one of them a 
son of thine?

	Ayeesha laughed in exasperation.  "You would have me a mother 
already?  Have you not forgotten to wed me first?"

	Ali's glance was full of regret.  "I have long-hoped that you would 
marry my friend Hassan.  The two of you got along so well when we were 
children together."

	Her expression hardened.  "We are no longer children, Ali, and much 
has changed.  Hassan is your friend, not mine.  He is a noble-hearted and 
comely man, no doubt, but I feel no magic when I look into his face.  He is 
almost as much my brother as you are!"

	"I feel the same," confessed Ali.  "He is like the brother I have never 
had.  But Hassan is not truly your brother and he would make a fine 
husband."

	"Then marry him yourself!"

	He grasped her more firmly.  "Ayeesha!  Thy tongue is as sharp as 
the adder's tooth!  Wit ill-becomes a woman's hopes for happy matrimony!  I 
pity the man who finally takes thee to wife!"

	"Fine, brother!  Then let me marry no one at all -- least of all 
Hassan."

	"Why least of all?" Ali asked disappointedly.

	"Because Hassan would indeed take me -- but only to please you.  He 
loves me no more than I love him.  Think, Ali!  He never speaks of me when 
alone in your company -- does he?"

	Ali tried to remember such an occasion, but was stumped.  "Not in so 
many words --"

	"Good!"

	"What do you mean 'good?'  You need a husband and Hassan would 
be the best man in all Syria.  Delay no longer, little quail.  People already call 
a maid a spinster at the age of eighteen!"

	"Why put such grief upon me, Ali?  Are you my brother or my 
father?"

	"Father and son think alike."

	"More the pity!" Ayeesha scoffed as she wriggled out of his grasp.

	At that moment two matrons from the harem hurried up to the royal 
pair and bowed to the prince.

	"Praise be, Prince Ali," said the older of the two servants.

	"May Allah be with you, grandmothers."

	The second matron now turned toward Ayeesha, saying:  "Princess, 
please return with us before you provoke a scandal!"

	"Why a scandal?  Liberty is no one's scandal.  The animals are less 
than I, or so they say, but yet they are more free."

	"The horses, mules, and cattle are not free," Ali reminded her.

	She hung her head.  "'Tis true.  All who are conquered are not free!" 

	The prince placed his hand upon his sister's shoulder.  "You are not 
conquered, white dove.  You are loved more than you know."

	She shook him off irritably.  "Would that Allah gave me another kind 
of love, and let you make do with mine -- then you may tell me whether you 
like it or not!"

	"Do not say such wicked things, Princess," the older matron chided.  
"Sometime Allah hears foolish utterances and makes them come to pass -- to 
teach us the price of folly.  Now, come along, dear one." 

	Ayeesha looked appealing toward Ali, but he only shook his head.  

	"There is nothing to do for it.  You must go back," he told her.

	"The parade --!"

	"I will not see it either."

	"Why?  She is your bride!"

	"She is only another burden that I, as prince, must bear.  I think that 
you shall meet the princess Badiat even before I do.  She will be housed in 
the women's quarters."

	"Imprisoned, you mean!"

	"Your words, not mine," he replied with a patient smile.

	Ayeesha returned a doleful glance, then allowed the attendants to 
guide her away.  Ali watched them go with a shake of his head.

		#

	Two hours later, Ali released his hawk, which began circling at a 
great height over its master's head.  Below, the prince's party advanced 
through the brush with dogs to flush the game.  As the desert quails whirred 
from the thickets, the raptor saw the birds and dived in for the kill.  Having 
made a clean strike, the well-trained creature returned to its master bearing its 
prize.

	"'Tis but a pale form of hunting," mused Ali to Hassan as he tugged 
the game bird from his pet's claws.  "It is the hawk which does all the work."

	His friend shrugged.  "Yet I cannot help but admire these birds."

	"Why?"

	"Look how your falcon overcomes its own nature, which is to feast 
upon its own kill.  Instead, it leaves it for his master to profit by."

	"Training is all," Ali mused absently, not much interested in the 
subject.  "I myself am being rigorously prepared to be my father's 
successor."

	Hassan looked up.  "But that is not against your true nature, surely."

	"Of course it is not," he replied tonelessly.  Then, not wanting to 
betray his sullen mood, he forced a bit of cheer into his baritone.  "Hawks are 
tame sport!  Give me a boar spear and a bit of danger any day."

	"As you say, but boars are few and far away," Hassan reminded him.

	"That is true," he sighed, and changed the subject.  "I hope you took 
no offense at Ayeesha."

	 His friend smiled broadly.  "How can one be offended by a girl who 
makes him laugh so hard?"

	"Yes, that one delights even as she infuriates," the heir of Damascus 
nodded.

	Hassan slapped his comrade upon the shoulder.  "How do you feel, 
Ali -- you who are soon to be the groom of the most sought-after princess in 
all Syria?  What did the old woman who examined her last year say?"

	Ali shrugged.  "She said that the princess is beautiful, and that Allah 
has favored me.  She is, however, older than most brides -- already she is 
Ayeesha's age."

	"That is old!" Hassan said with a sympathetic grimace.

 	"Her sire has been trying to arrange this marriage for over three years, 
but my father long pretended to be considering other prospects, simply to 
drive the dowry up."

	"Your father was always a practical man."

	Ali shook his head.  "Once Father's price was met, I would have had 
to marry her even if she had had the aspect of a crocodile!  I will not even be 
permitted to see her face until after the ceremony."

	"That is the way with us of high rank.  Nonetheless, it is good to be 
wed.  A man needs sons.  If I could only find a highborn lady who is as 
lovely as that concubine in the tent of Mufti the Bedouin --"

	The emir's son laughed.  "Now there was a vision of loveliness!" he 
concurred.  "The best of his harem."

	"I will have a better seraglio someday," Hassan said with a chuckle.  
"Then I, master of all I survey, will permit my wives and concubines to ply 
my naked body with caresses and mount me one after another.  She will be 
the winner who first draws forth my vital juices."

	"And what will the winner win?" Ali inquired sardonically.

	Undaunted, Hassan replied:  "She who wins this contest should 
receive a precious jewel into her hand, while the losers get nothing but a 
thwack upon their beautiful behinds with the girl-whip.  After that, I think, 
each of them shall take care to be a little more amorous the next time.  It is a 
privilege to be summoned to their master's pillows, after all."

	"I would do even better," Ali averred cheerily.

	"How better?"

	The prince raised his finger like a pedagogue giving a lesson.  "Each 
member of my harem should be picked for possessing one particular 
adeptness or charm.  One girl should possess the most satiny, delicious 
calves in all the East.  Another should own the most perfect thighs; and still 
another would have hands which are the softest of all -- and she would use 
them to induce me to valorous deeds of manhood."

	Hassan guffawed, thoroughly enjoying his comrade's fantasy.  "I 
think you speak not of any mortal harem, but the garden of the houris in 
Paradise."

	"Women are like hawks.  If trained, they may perform marvels.  I 
have heard of how whip-masters employed by slavers can take the rudest 
country maid and make her perform like a houri.  -- But I have not finished 
describing my harem."

 	 "Then do go on!" 

	"Still another slave girl shall be possessed of the most perfect large, 
firm, and round breasts.  She will kneel before me and cup those soft melons 
of flesh against my zubb and, moving back and forth, create the illusion that I 
am probing her maidenly kus."

	"I am most interested in that thigh-slave you mentioned," Hassan 
admitted whimsically.

	"My thigh-slave will clench my excited scepter between her satiny 
columns until it is incited to heroic performance.  The calf-slave shall, of 
course, do likewise with her own special charm."

	"Breasts, legs, calves.  Do you never receive Mouth Magic in this 
harem of yours?"  

	"Every day!" Ali said with a grin.  "I should naturally appoint a 
sucking-slave, one whose soft, rosy lips will nibble, lick, and breathe all 
over me.  But best of all, she will engorge the entire head of my rutting ram, 
exciting it with her tongue, until she draws forth my full venom."

	Ali went on, waxing fancifully about a toe-slave skilled in tickling 
him with her toes alone, and a derriere-slave, who must offer up her satiny 
globes to his mighty sword-of-pleasure.  And this latter maid would be 
chosen also for her sharpness of speech and defiant temper.  It is ever the 
proud and querulous girl that the man takes the most pleasure in spanking.  
And a beautiful bottom gives him special delight.

	Hassan cocked one eye.  "All slaves, I see; will you have no wife?"  

	Ali shrugged.  "Every monarch must have four wives, and so shall I!  
Badiat will be the first of these, of course, as her father will have purchased 
her that right.  God willing, I would keep them all pregnant all the time.  
Then I would need to see each of them only twice a year:  Once when I plant 
my seed, and once more when my wife brings the harvest of my sowing to 
me to admire."

	Hassan continued to smile, but he was sensing some sourness under 
his friend's foolery.  Ali was not a sour man by nature, but he had tended to 
sourness oftentimes in these late days, even in his humor.

	"Well," Hassan said with a frown, "I must consult the captain of the 
horse.  Now that I am made bey of the royal troop I can but spare little time 
for sport."

	Ali nodded.  "And I need go back to my father's councilors, who will 
blather at me until evening prayer on the theories of policy."

	"I pity you," commiserated his friend.

	Ali looked off into the distance.  "Each man's fate -- his kismet -- is 
written upon his forehead at birth, and none may change a letter of the 
sentence."

	Hassan, too, chose to wax philosophical.  "If we knew what that 
sentence read, would we be the happier or the more aggrieved?"

	"I know not," Ali sighed resignedly.  "But my immediate fate is to the 
bath to wash off the sweat of the hunt.  Shall we meet again at evening 
prayer?"

	"I shall be there," his comrade affirmed. 

		#

	Ayeesha had spent the afternoon sitting moodily in a corner of the 
women's quarters.  She barely heard the soft footsteps behind her.

	"You are Princess Ayeesha, soon to be my sister?" asked someone 
standing behind her.

	The princess turned and espied a slim, dark-complected young 
woman of about eighteen standing over her.  "Princess Badiat?" Ayeesha 
inquired, rising.  "Welcome.  It is true, I am the sister of your husband-to-
be."

	Badiat extended her hand.  "I am pleased to meet you.  One needs a 
kindly companion in a strange city; I hope that you shall be mine."

	Ayeesha regarded the stranger quizzically.  "You seem angry, 
Princess.  A difficult journey?"

	"A journey that ends too soon," she replied acridly.  "I have never 
been outside my father's palace before.  Now, again, after a brief viewing of 
fields and towns, I am again caged.  Only the palace has changed, nothing 
else.  How do you bear it?

	The Damascene looked at her new acquaintance with renewed 
interest.  "I was speaking on just that subject with my brother."

	Badiat frowned.  "With my betrothed?"

	"Why frown so?  Ali is a fine man!"

	The Edessan shrugged.  "I saw him once at my father's court, 
through a screen.  He was a fair enough figure of a youth, I suppose."

	Ayeesha touched Badiat's hand.  "You will love him, as I do."

	"You have a soft touch," remarked the princess suddenly.  "Does my 
touch please you also?"

	"Princess, I --"

	"We shall have many hours together, I do not doubt.  Perhaps we 
shall become -- good friends."

	"I hope we shall, my princess --" murmured Ayeesha with a 
wondering glance.  


		Chapter Two

		'Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days
		Where Destiny with Men for pieces plays:
		 Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
		 And one by one back in the closet lays.

 	The bath-slave Aram had just helped Ali descend into the waist-deep 
water.  Neither he nor the prince detected the stealthy footfalls entering the 
chamber.  The wizard Yusuf swallowed hard as he paused upon the marble 
coping of the bathing pool, not yet absolutely confident of the Gem of 
Invisibility's power.  In his perspiring fists he clutched his glazed vial, now 
refilled.  He now unstopped it with trembling hands, quailing as Ali suddenly 
seemed to look up at him.  But the young man's eyes shifted away again, at 
which point the conspirator sucked in a deep sigh of relief.

	This sound Ali actually did hear, and he curiously scanned the 
chamber.  Alarmed, the old man froze in place, too frightened even to 
breathe.  To have his scheme exposed would mean a terrible death -- roasting 
over a small fire, or being torn apart by wild horses.

	The prince took a proffered bottle of ointment from Aram and poured 
a puddle of it into his palm.  This he commenced to rub into own muscular 
arms and chest.  With Ali and the servant both distracted, Yusuf slowly 
regained his courage and, carefully, as to not wet his fingertips with the 
smallest drop, he unstopped the flask and tipped it.  Its clear contents poured 
into the waters of Ali's bath with only the tiniest tinkling sound.

	As the magic substance spread and reached Ali, something like a 
thousand pin-pricks benumbed the youth's flesh and he let out a gasp of 
startlement.  His knees failing under him, he thrust out his arms to catch the 
tile coping, lest he go under.  He succeeded in this, but the servant above him 
was crying out in surprise and dismay:

	"Master!" cried Aram.  "This cannot be!"

 	Dazed, the son of Haroon looked up at him.

	"What?" he murmured, and only belatedly realized that his voice 
sounded strange.

	"You have changed!"

	Ali wondered why the man's eyes seemed to be starting from their 
sockets.  Then he looked down at himself.

	And screamed.

		#

 	The Emir Haroon paced back and forth in front of his councilors, 
feeling much older than he was.  The wise men of Damascus themselves 
appeared perplexed, and, out of politeness, and also a certain squeamishness, 
refrained from looking at the cloaked figure of Ali.  The latter was standing 
apart from them and next to Hassan, his face hidden by a close-wrapped 
kaffiyeh.

	Lord Aziz breached the tense silence with a platitude:  "Sorcery is 
afoot, great Haroon.  The culprit must be found and punished!"

	The emir tore at his grey hair.  "Oh, woe!  Should the sultan of 
Edessa discover this catastrophe, Ali's marriage to Badiat shall be doomed!  
Our whole dynasty is destroyed.  I no longer have an heir!"

	"Majesty!" cried Ali.  "It is not so!  I am alive!"

	Achmed smiled unctuously at the shrouded figure of the prince, 
saying:  "Of course you understand what the emir is saying, O Royal One.  
The people will never accept an emir who comes to the throne under an 
enchantment such as yours.  But hopefully, by the grace of Allah, we shall in 
time find the means to take this degrading spell from your person.  But until 
then, alas, we have more immediate problems."

	Achmed was enjoying his own performance, and a yearn to laugh 
tugged at his pious expression.  He turned toward the emir, saying:  "Ali's 
wedding to Badiat is now, as you say, impossible, Great One.  We dare not 
lose the alliance with Edessa and, therefore, another noble suitor must be 
found for the princess -- and swiftly."

	"Do not despair, Mighty Emir," interjected the councilor Madani, "I 
fear that I know what has befallen Ali -- and there is yet hope for him."

	Ali perked up.  "What hope?  Explain!"

	"In the land of Khwarizm is found a spring call the Fountain of 
Marshan.  He or she who bathes in its waters is --"

	"Is what?" demanded Emir Haroon.

	"Is changed as Prince Ali has been changed."  He went on to explain 
the legend in detail.

	Achmed tensed and queried tentatively:  "And you suppose that an 
enemy has cursed Prince Ali with the water of this fountain?" 

	"I do.  Fortunately, a little fresh water from the same spring will 
instantly remove the curse."

	"Then I must go to the spring!" cried Ali.

	"I, too, have heard of this evil fountain," put in another councilor, 
Aziz by name.  "It is a long journey from here -- at the city of Marshan, far 
away, to the north of the mountains of Persia, at the edge of the land of 
Khwarizm."

	"I do not care how far I must go!" the prince exclaimed.  "I will not 
live as -- as --" His words choked off, their taste too bitter to utter.

	"Be warned, Ali," said Madani with immense gravity.  "The legends 
say that for the curse to be removed, the sufferer must do no dishonor to his 
original shape, and therefore must conduct himself accordingly."

	Ali stepped determinably forward:  "What does that mean?  Do not 
speak in riddles!"

	Madani explained his meaning carefully, and Ali's eyes grew wide in 
anger.  "Why do you even make mention of such a thing?!  By Allah's 
Sword, what do you take me for?!"

	Councilor Aziz interposed himself between Madani and Ali.  "Peace, 
Your Grace.  Our colleague means only to say that no one knows what subtle 
changes this sorcery may have wrought in your blameless nature."

	"My nature is exactly what it has always been!" exclaimed the emir's 
son.  "Or," he demanded through clenched teeth, "have you noticed some 
change?" 

	"None at all," the elder replied with a reverential bow.

	The emir slammed his fist against the back of his chair.  "We shall 
seek for the culprit!  He may have more of the magic water, and thus the 
curse may be lifted at once.  But if our search does not avail us, we must 
waste no time."  He swung toward Hassan.

	The young warrior straightened.  "Yes, Mighty One?" 

	"Hassan, you shall prepare an expedition to Khwarizm at once!  
Accompany Ali to the spring -- and do not return until my son is restored."

	"Why do you not let me prepare the expedition myself, Father?" Ali 
asked in perplexity.  "It will help keep my mind off this terrible condition."

	"How can you speak to warriors and camel-sellers as you are, my 
son?" his father answered.  "No one would recognize you, and you must not 
tell a soul who you are, lest the scandal shame our entire house, our ancestors 
even!"

	The prince blinked with startlement.  "Am I a thing of shame to you 
now, Father?  Why?  I have done no wrong and am responsible in no way 
for what has befallen me."

	"No, of course you are not!  But we must be discrete.  Besides, you 
are too distraught to do such exacting work.  Let Hassan see to the difficult 
matters."

	"Why should I?" Ali answered defiantly.  "Whatever else I may have 
become, Majesty, I have not become a child nor a fool!"

	Achmed spoke up, eager to cast blame away from himself:  "That bath 
servant of the prince's may be a part of the plot.  He should be put to the 
torture at once."

	Ali raised his masked head.  "No!  He is innocent.  -- I feel it.  It is an 
evil thing to torture a good servant on mere suspicion, and I will not have it 
done on my account!"

	"Of course, of course," vacillated the emir, "but he must at least be 
closely questioned.  If, in the process, he behaves in a guilty manner --"

	He dropped the subject and looked toward the others.  "Gentlemen, 
come, we must sort this matter out carefully."

 	The emir withdrew and the councilors stepped briskly after him, 
leaving Ali and Hassan alone in the room.  The prince looked askance at the 
warrior at his side.

	Before Hassan could encourage or commiserate, there came a shout 
from Achmed in the adjacent chamber.  "Hassan, you come also.  This 
concerns your journey!"

	The prince's comrade looked bemusedly at Ali.  "Excuse me, my 
friend.  I will rejoin you as soon as possible."

	Now left alone, Ali spun about and stormed away.

		#

	Achmed, once more surrounded by a crowd of his women, received 
Yusuf for the second time that day.  On this occasion, the latter was 
accompanied by a tall, muscular warrior in the garments of a ghazi, his turban 
decorated with a stiff red feather.  The man's scabbard was empty, however, 
the guards outside not permitting a weapon to be brought into their master's 
presence.

	Achmed pushed a doe-eyed concubine away. "Begone, all of you!" 
he commanded.  As the women scrambled from the suite, Achmed beckoned 
Yusuf and his bodyguard closer.  The latter watched the departing dancers 
and concubines with avid interest.

	"Visions of loveliness, lord," the ghazi remarked in a strong, 
rumbling voice.  His accent betrayed an Egyptian origin.

	"Yes, indeed," Achmed nodded distractedly.  "You should see them 
when they dance."

	"Aye," nodded the big swordsman, "that is the sort of woman for me 
-- a dancing girl, like my mother was."

	"I take it that you are Mahmood, Yusuf's bodyguard?" Achmed 
remarked.

	"That is so, lord," affirmed Yusuf.  "I would have lost my life many a 
time during my travels, except that the stalwart Mahmood stood at my side."

	"You are welcome here, warrior," Achmed said perfunctorily.

	Mahmood gave a dignified bow. "Thank you, Mighty Vizier." 

	Achmed put his beringed hand upon the old wizard's back.  "Yusuf, 
you should have seen Prince Ali!  He was wrapped up like a bedouin!  It was 
all I could do to keep from laughing! "

	Yusuf grinned.  "You forget that I saw him in the bath -- not 
wrapped, but naked!  The spectacle was even more amazing than you can 
imagine!"

	"And if I have my way, he will wear that shape for the rest of his 
life!" the vizier vowed determinedly.  "Tell me, Sorcerer, have you come up 
with some plan to prevent Ali from ever again regaining his natural shape?"

	"Yes indeed, Lord.  Have I ever failed you?"  

	Achmed listened carefully to his learned cohort and then nodded.  "I 
do like what I hear.  How should we bring it about?  Do you suggest 
violence?"

	"Alas, lord, for the magic to work, Ali must act willingly, 
enthusiastically, even."

	"He will never do that!"

	"I agree.  For that reason we must resort to magic once more."

	"What do you mean?"

	"I have a potion which comes from the city of Marshan also."  Yusuf 
summarized the peculiar nature of the cantrip.

	"But how do we know that the potion you purchased was true and 
pure?" Achmed asked edgily.

	"I am confident, Esteemed One, but if you would set your mind at 
ease, I suggest that we test it upon the knight in the tower while you 
observe."

	"And perhaps I shall do more than merely observe," Achmed 
suggested, his lips drawing into a tight, thin smile.

		 #

	Yusuf led his master Achmed and his servant Mahmood to the 
Crusader's cell, whereupon Achmed sent the guards away and unlocked the 
door.  Upon entering, they espied a blonde woman of about nineteen or 
twenty years of age.  She was standing defiantly on the opposite side of a 
small table and wearing the rood-decorated tabard and hose of the infidel 
Crusaders.   

	"Sorcier!  Va-t'en!" the blonde snarled.  "Je ne suis pas un caprice 
pour votre amusement!"

	Yusuf tilted his head toward Achmed.  "The knight, I think, resents 
being turned into a woman," he grinned.  "And yet he makes such a pretty 
virgin girl!"  The magician next spoke over his shoulder to Mahmood.  "We 
must fetter her."  

	The sorcerer proffered the cup he held to the vizier, saying, "Please 
hold this cup, my lord."

	Achmed received the vessel as his two underlings went after the 
Frankish maid.  She showed spirit, seizing an earthenware pitcher and 
throwing it at Yusuf's head.  The old man ducked, but Mahmood charged 
after the caster.  She eluded his grasp for a moment, but he soon had her 
locked in his herculean arms.  The Egyptian and his master dragged the girl to 
a wooden pillar where depended a set of manacles.  While Mahmood held 
her, the magician clicked them shut upon her wrists.

	"Cochons!  Je vous tourai!" shrieked the fettered blonde, the echoes 
of her cry ringing through the tower.

	Achmed now stepped up to inspect her.  The girl's red-faced rage, her 
flashing blue eyes, the disarray of her hair, came across as a feral sort of 
beauty.  "Very good," he said.  "Now leave us alone.  I will administer the 
potion myself and observe its effects personally."

	Yusuf half-bowed in assent and drew Mahmood after him.  Achmed 
watched the door close, then held the cup of wine up before his captive's 
nose.  The bouquet was heavy and sweet.   

	"You are thirsty, are not you, Sir Knight?  Let it not be said that I do 
not see to my captives' needs."  He nudged the goblet to her lips.  "Here, 
take this.  I know how you French like wine.  All the world knows you for a 
race of drunkards."

	After a circumspect taste, the French girl drank thirstily.  Finally, 
sated, she sighed throatily and sagged, her arms taking some of her relaxed 
weight.  Achmed watched avidly, and, after just a moment, the Turkish 
grandee noticed the girl's subtle shiver.  This shiver, whatever its cause, 
seemed to leave her as swiftly as it had come, and she was suddenly blinking 
at him with bedazzled eyes.  

	Had the spell worked?  Achmed decided that it was time test it.  He 
touched the girl's tabard, in the place where her breasts bulged.

	No sooner had he pinched her than she rebuked him:  "A bas les 
mains, abatardi puant que vous etes!" 

	"You do not like being touched, my lotus?" he mocked.  "Why 
should that be?  I have heard that French girls are all whores, though  I do not 
know whether they were speaking figuratively or literally.  We must decide 
the matter for ourselves."

	Achmed prodded the girl with insolent fingers.  "Conchon!" the 
transformed knight yelled at the top of her lungs.  

	After a few minutes, Achmed began to notice a gentling of his 
victim's attitude.  Was it the effect of the potion?  Emboldened, the vizier 
took his victim by the waist and crushed her against himself, forcing hungry 
kisses upon her mouth.  She shook herself away and aimed a knee at his 
crouch, but he was too quick for her.

	"Allez-vous-en, vase Arabe!" she growled, and Achmed surmised 
that her words had amounted to an insult of the vilest kind. 

	"Do you impugn me, by proud beauty?" he inquired whimsically.  
"You will be punished for that."  

	He drew his father's bejeweled dagger; the girl froze as Achmed 
poised the keen blade under her chin.  But instead of cutting her, he merely 
severed the tie at her throat.

	"I want to see you naked," explained Achmed as he pulled her tunic 
down over her shoulders.  "If your beauty pleases me, you shall be permitted 
to live as a concubine for the rest of your life."  

	The chained knight kicked at Achmed's shins futilely while the vizier 
cut away those parts of her garments which would not yield to the strength of 
his bare hands.  "Ahh, yes," he murmured, "I am impressed, truly.  Some 
fool told me that Western women were small-breasted, but you are as 
generously-endowed as any Circassian beauty."  

	He touched her now-bared breasts.  The girl tried to shake him off 
while Achmed laughed at her mortification.  The knight was easy prey for the 
Syrian in her present form, nothing more than a plaything.

	Maliciously, Achmed sank to his knees and hooked his thumbs into 
the knight's waistband.  His attempt to drag down her hose incited the 
knight, who started to kick again.  Annoyed, Achmed left her hose bunched 
at her knees, where it would seriously impede her ability to kick with 
efficacy.  

	Now that she was all but naked, vizier placed his hands upon her 
buttocks and proceeded to knead them vigorously, while his prey, beside 
herself, twisted right and left.  

	Tiring of the sport, the vizier took hold of her knees and bent to kiss 
her inner thighs.  Oblivious to her, the Turk worked his way up along the 
blemishless flesh to the golden nest above.  This he touched with his tongue, 
giving her clitoris -- the zambur, as his people called it -- a mischievous flick, 
which caused the girl to leap and utter a squeak.  

	His continued liberties had soon reduced the the girl to gasping.  
Finally, Achmed got up and wiped his mouth on his kerchief.  

	Keenly the grandee observed the effects of his attempt to arouse the 
Crusader.  Strands of amber hair were pasted to the maid's moist face and her 
limbs quivered with emotion.  The slick sheen of perspiration upon her trim 
body was, he supposed, due not to air temperature, but sexual heat.  Could 
Achmed also detect a trace of feminine musk over the usual prison odors?

	He decided that he did, and so pressed his agenda.  He picked up the 
leather collar which he had brought along and enjoyed the look of horror the 
Frankish maid showed when she saw the collar yawn open.  Instead of 
thrashing about this time, though, the blonde simply hung there with eyes 
wide, her lips agape.  The prisoner's demeanor made it easy for Achmed to 
fit the dark leather around her swan-like neck.  

	Was she stunned only? he wondered.  Yusuf had said that the potion 
had three elements to its makeup.  The first induced into a woman who drank 
it an insatiable sexual need.  The second inspired a craving for bondage, for 
wearing the symbols of subjugation and the domination of a master.  The 
third created a passionate fixation upon the first man which her dazed glance 
fixed upon.  Taken together, the three elements of the potion created a wild 
and lusty sex-slave who was utterly devoted to a single master.  This was the 
fate which the grandee dearly desired to inflict upon Ali.

	Achmed had by now notched the belt in place with these taunting 
words:

	"At this moment, you cease to be a free man or even a woman 
captive.  You are chattel.  There shall be no purpose to your life hereafter, 
except the pleasing of those who hold power over you.  You are now, and 
forever, a female slave!"

	Achmed stepped back to feast his eyes upon the circlet she now wore.  
The collar was not the fashion of Syria, but came from the lands east of 
Baghdad, but he very much liked the look of it upon the neck of a beautiful 
thrall.  The item was, in fact, the girl's only garment above the knees.  
Though she didn't understand his words, the French prisoner comprehended 
the symbolism of his act and her expression transformed from one of anger to 
dismay.

	Achmed surprised her by unlocking the manacles.  So taken aback 
was she that, instead of darting away, or springing for his throat, she 
collapsed into his arms.  Atremble with triumph and desire, the vizier lowered 
her to the floor.  As she lay on the old straw, the Saracen stripped off her 
over-sized boots, then her hose.  Now the collar was all that she wore.

	"What an addition you shall make to the seraglio which finally claims 
you!" prophesied the Turk, his lips drawn back in a grotesque rictus of mirth.  
Without further taunts, he opened his trousers to liberate his blood-gorged 
manhood.  

	The French girl looked up in bewilderment at the rampant cock-stand 
looming over her.

	"Like it, Crusader?  It shall be yours -- in a sense."  

	The vizier stooped to grab a mass of her golden hair, and thereby 
pulled her up to her knees.  Then he took his aroused organ in his other hand.

	"Taste my zubb, infidel whore!" 

	Repulsed, the girl averted her glance.

	Angry, Achmed stood up, adjusted his breeches, and  yelled:  "-- 
Yusuf, you fool!"

	When the old man had shuffled back into the cell, the vizier pointed 
an accusing finger at him.  "The potion has no effect!"

	"You are too impatient, Lord," Yusuf counseled plaintively.  "I have 
seen how the Marshanese use the potion.  It effectively tames females who 
begin their slavery in the most defiant state of mind.  Its power grows 
stronger minute by minute.  The more she yields to it, the greater the 
dominance it assumes over her emotions.  And this is the royal mix of the 
cantrip, which is the strongest of all."

	Achmed made a scoffing noise.  "She doesn't seem to love me in the 
least."

	"Be patient," the magician urged once more.

	The Turk was only partially reassured as he made a new assessment 
of the girl.  Her fair eyes were bloodshot and watery, her shoulders trembled, 
and her breasts were heaving.  

	The sight might have brought pity to another heart, but not to 
Achmed's.  "You Crusaders invade our land, you rape, you pillage," he 
inveighed.  "Well, you are one who shall pay back all he has taken, and in 
hard coin!  Do you know what the words 'Mouth Magic' mean, you stupid 
little barbarian?"

	The French girl reacted and Achmed laughed.  She had actually 
understood the euphemism. "I see you do understand!" grinned the Syrian.  
"You must have learned all the words that whores use."  He pointed to his 
formidable scepter.  "Mouth Magic.  Do it!"

	The indignant Frank shook her head and effected to crawl away.  The 
Saracen took the sash from his robe and, in a flash, had his fair prisoner 
bound by the wrists, belly-down, to an iron floor-ring.  Then he took his 
leather belt from his pantaloons.

	"Mouth Magic now, little whore?  I am waiting."

	She shook her head furiously.  "No!  Jamais!" 

	Achmed struck.  The Crusader yelled in pain and struggled to free 
herself, but the Syrian's knots were too clever.  Achmed delivered one blow 
after another, until his victim lay collapsed, gasping, her mouth full of straw.  
His sadistic impulse momentarily satisfied, Achmed set aside the belt and told 
Yusuf to fetch a pitcher of water.  

	From this, the official refreshed himself, and then put his cup to the 
slave's lips.  She coughed as she swallowed.  Achmed looked up at Yusuf, 
saying, "Go now.  I resume my private audience with our foreign guest."

	When the wizard was gone, Achmed spoke sneeringly to the girl:  
"Mouth Magic, my little heifer, or --" he showed her the strap, "-- more of 
this?"

	"Oui!  Mouth magic!" she gasped.

	Pleased, Achmed arranged the girl on her hands and knees, then 
seated himself upon the prison stool.  By means of a handful of her hair, he 
brought his slave's face close to his loins.  The vizier continued to hold her 
with one hand while he again freed his erection and commenced to rub it 
against the French girl's tight-clenched lips.

	 "Open your mouth, whore!" he directed, pantomiming exactly what 
he wanted.  Such gesticulation would not be necessary for long with this one, 
he knew.  Every harem girl soon learned all these sexual commands even 
when given in Turkish.

	The Frank moved to comply, if woefully slow.  Impatient, Achmed 
thrust the corona of his penis between her lips and felt the warm, wet 
envelopment.  

	"Suck!  Suck, bitch, -- suck!" Achmed commanded.  He moaned in 
pleasure at her efforts to obey, though the fellatio he was receiving was a 
clumsy one.  By pulling her hair and groaning encouragement from time to 
time, he exacted the performance that he wanted from her. 

	His swollen scepter and throbbing stones were aching, and he craved 
release.  In fact, he longed to see the girl's face of horror as he released his 
vital essence into her virgin mouth, but that delight would, unfortunately, 
have to wait for another day.  

	Without warning, Achmed pushed the girl away.  She fell on her back 
and lay there, not understanding the cause of his sudden roughness.  But she 
comprehended all when the Saracen got to his feet and kicked the pantaloons 
from his ankles.  Unsure whether to resist or not, she permitted him to 
position himself between her widely-spread legs.  The vizier smiled at the 
look of apprehension in the French girl's lovely face, noting how her nipples 
stood straight-out, stiff little pink-brown cones.

	Confronted by such beauty and such evidence of female heat, 
Achmed could control himself no longer.  What's more, there was no longer 
any cause to exercise the slightest control over himself.

	He imposed his body upon hers and she cried out in surprise.  At first 
his action was to subject her to a rough, angry foreplay -- pawing and 
groping -- the sort of treatment that a whore could expect from a conquering 
soldier.  Her beautiful face he covered in big, wet kisses, interspaced with 
painful love-bites.  The girl, pinned to the straw, herself intensely aroused, 
could do nothing but cry out and struggle ineffectively against the hurt -- a 
hurt which was increasingly registering in her mind and emotions as 
pleasure.

	Achmed felt about to burst, but he did not want to spend himself upon 
her thighs.  It was time to make this knight of France a woman true.

	"Ah, my bitch, you have fucked many daughters of the Faithful, I do 
not doubt.  In so doing, you have incurred a great debt to our people.  It is 
time for restitution.  How shall it feel to be a sword no longer, but a scabbard 
put to the service of other men's weapons?"

	The man of Asia shuddered, then took his aching cock-stand into his 
hand and, rasping, said:  "You are as hot as a brazier in wintertide, my 
European beauty.  You want to fuck, I know, and fuck you shall!  Do you 
know that word, my darling little whore -- 'fuck?'"

	The French girl nodded, wild-eyed.  "Oui, Maitre!" she gasped.  
"'Fuck!'  Jai compris!  Penetre-me!  Fuck!  Fuck moi, Maitre!"

	Achmed knew the tones of lust when he heard them, and so he placed 
his stiff length to the center of her vulva, and, with his partner moaning in 
near-delirium, he thrust.

	He pumped himself into her furiously, assailing her with long, 
slamming strokes.  He continued relentlessly, until the woman shuddered 
under him, transported by orgasm.  With a loud moan, he let himself go at 
last, pouring himself out in a series of spasmodic bursts.  A man of vigor, 
Achmed kept his hips moving as long as he had anything left to give to the 
Crusader -- and he gave it all.  

	Achmed at last rolled away.  As a man he was now used up, and the 
girl herself seemed equally spent.  Spent, alas, but not sated.

	"Mon Deui!" she gasped.  "C'est bon!  C'est bon!  Plus!" 

	When her lover proved unresponsive, she groped at him, tried to roll 
him over on top of herself.

	Weary, Achmed pushed the French girl away.  To his annoyance, she 
held on to his leg, yammering:  "Maitre!  Fuck moi!  Mas fuck!"

	"No, Crusader, I am not here for your pleasure," he taunted.  "But I 
may tell your jailers that they may do as they please with you.  Would you 
like that, my golden harlot?" 

	He rose, dressed, and then called his fellow conspirators back into the 
cell.

	"She came like a bitch in heat!" the vizier laughed.  "A man only this 
morning, tonight she climaxes like the hottest whore in Tyre!"

	"Now you know that the potion works," said Yusuf proudly.  "A 
man or woman who surrenders himself, or herself, to one of his former sex, 
so long as he was willing when he did so, is forever trapped in the shape 
which the waters have imposed."

	"For once you have not blundered, old fool.  That is, if the legend is 
true.  Douse the slut with some more of the magic water tonight, just to make 
sure that she cannot be restored.  If she cannot be, then it shall be clear that 
Ali cannot be, either."

	"I will do so, my lord.  But what about afterwards?  The girl knows 
too much.  She cannot speak our language as yet, but in time --?

	Achmed frowned.  Clearly, the French girl must be sent away, killed, 
or have her tongue cut out. 

	"Tell me, wizard, will this whore die of love for me if I send her from 
the city?"

	"No, the love spell will simply fade away in a few days if her beloved 
rejects her.  However, this shall not free her from her craving for sex and 
bondage.  These will remain, I understand, until the end of her childbearing 
years."

	"She is able to conceive?"

	"I have been to Marshan and so I know that fact to be true."

	Achmed nodded, satisfied.  "If all this is so, death would be too kind 
for a Christian dog -- I mean, a Christian bitch.  I promised that I would 
make her a concubine, and so I shall.  I know a slave-trader who is buying 
women for Zanzibar."

	Yusuf inclined his head.  "You are wise as well as merciful, Exulted 
One."

	"No time for idle banter, Yusuf!  You must follow Ali's and Hassan's 
expedition.  As soon as you are able, you must put the royal potion of 
Maiden's Ruin into his food or drink."

	"Must it be the royal potion, Sire?  As I say, the love spell is fragile, 
unless the sufferer's love is returned."

	Achmed gave a toss of his hand.  "Ali must lose his maidenhead as 
quickly as possible.  A slut may give up her maidenhead quickly, a slave-slut 
more quickly still, but a slave-slut in the grip of love-madness will not 
preserve her virginity as much as an hour.  We play for dangerous stakes, 
Yusuf; we must win with devastating swiftness, or all might be lost."

	"It is a vile revenge, Lord," spoke up Mahmood for the first time.  
"Why not simply use the power of the Gem of Invisibility to bring an 
assassin to the prince?"

	The vizier shook his head.  "That is too unimaginative, and it would 
not satisfy my hate.  This way Ali may live and suffer, but forever be denied 
the throne.  And if I become emir, my first act shall be to place him under the 
tyranny of whip-mistresses.  Perhaps when he is trained I will make him one 
of my concubines, or even a lowly barracks belly dancer, to entertain my 
soldiers."

	Achmed noticed Yusuf's doleful expression.  "What ails you now, 
Wizard?"

	"You say I must travel yet again.  My bones ache for rest, Lord.  I 
have grown too old for these long journeys."

	"I can trust no one else!  Do what I ask one final time and then retire 
with ten chests of gold for your own!"

	"Yes, Exulted One," Yusuf capitulated, moved as much by fear as by 
greed.

	Achmed turned to face the bodyguard.  "And you, Mahmood?  Will 
you go with your master?"

	"A man can always use more gold, Lord, but my happiness requires 
much more."

	The grandee regarded the Egyptian through a cocked eye.  "Just how 
great is your ambition, ghazi?"

	"I would give up my wandering forever," replied Mahmood, "if I 
could but open a simple hostel in my native Egypt and make it prosper."

	"That is nothing," exclaimed the official.  "I can make you the master 
of ten taverns."

	"I do not need ten, Great One.  So much responsibility would leave 
me no time for wife and family, and therefore for all which makes for a life of 
contentment.  There is only one thing which I lack."

	"What?"

	"It is too much to ask."

	"Ask anyway, dolt!  We have little time for false modesty."

	Mahmood straightened to all his gigantic height and said, "Lord 
Achmed is famous for the beauty of his harem."

	"That is so.  What of it?"

	"I have already espied one in it whom I cannot but deem the most 
beautiful woman in all the world."

	Achmed shook his head.  "It is impudence, warrior, to aspire to a 
concubine who has previously graced my own bed!  Yet I will not haggle 
with time so short.  To destroy the heir of Haroon, I would gladly lay even 
my own sister at your feet.  Serve your master well, come back successful, 
and the girl is yours.  -- More than that, you shall also have a chest of gold to 
buy that hostel of yours!"

	"Then I am your man," replied the bodyguard gratefully, clutching his 
scabbard in solemn pledge.

	Achmed clasped both their hands, sealing their pact of rogues.  


	Chapter Three

		Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
		 Asking, "What lamp had Destiny to guide
		Her little children stumbling in the dark?"
		 And -- "A blind understanding!" Heav'n replied.

 	That night, the young woman whom Ali had become lay in deep 
despondency, still masked in a dust veil.  Nerves frayed, grief afflicting her, 
Ali yearned for the slumber which would not come.

	Sleep had almost overtaken her when she heard footsteps.  Having 
sent all her other servants away to keep her secret, she supposed it was 
Aram.

	"Aram!  I told you to go to bed!  Stop moving around!"

	Then Ali heard a gasp in the corner.  It was like no gasp that the bath 
slave would have made.

	"What --?  Who is it?  Who hides behind the curtain?"

	A slim figure emerged into the lamplight.  "Where is my brother, 
maid?" the intruder demanded.  "And why are you wearing a sleeping robe 
like his?"

	"Ayeesha!" the prince gasped.

	"Do you know me, slave?  Do I also know you under that mask?"

	"Ayeesha!  Do not shout or call for the guards."

	"What are you talking about, girl?"

	"I am no girl!" the muffled prince declared despondently.  "I -- I am 
Ali!"

	Ayeesha stepped up closer.  "Ali?  What sort of fool do you take me 
for?  Your voice is a girl's.  Your size is also a girl's!" 

	"Let me explain!"

	And explain Ali did.  Ayeesha refused to believe it at first, but she 
plied the masked female with many questions and finally was convinced.

	"Oh, Brother, what an incredible story!"

	A moment of awkward silence followed, then Ali asked:  "Why have 
you come?"

	"I have heard that you were about to depart on a long pilgrimage to 
the East," she explained.  "This made no sense, as everyone knew you were 
to marry the Princess Badiat a few days hence.  And if some sudden religious 
passion had truly taken hold of you, I knew that you would at least visit me 
before you departed.  Something seemed very wrong."

	"Something is very wrong," Ali whispered, barely audible.

	She touched her brother's arm.  "Do not grieve so."

	"Why should I not grieve?  If you were suddenly made a male, would 
you not feel as humiliated as I do?"

	Ayeesha shook her head.  "No, I would be pleased."

	Ali looked up incredulously.  "You would jest so at a time like this?!"

	"I speak true, Brother!  In this world men can do everything and 
women nothing.  If you go to Marshan, as you say you will, I beg you to 
return with a bottle of the fountain water -- for me.  I would rather be your 
younger brother than any kind of a sister!"

	Ali stared off into the shadows.  "I do not understand you.  I never 
have."

	"Nor do I understand why you must hide your face from even me, 
dear Ali.  Has this magic made you ugly?"

	"No, not ugly.  But -- my appearance -- it would shock you.  You 
more than any other, perhaps."

	"Do not be that way, Ali.  I am not squeamish.  Now that you have 
warned me, I expect to see a strange woman's face."

	"It will not seem so strange.  Councilor Madani explained what has 
happened.  He said that the curse of the fountain does not simply change a 
man.  It makes him over into the image of that one which he --"

	"Which he what? "

	"Which he holds in his secret heart to be the most beautiful in all the 
world."

	"Oh, no, Ali -- thou hast not taken the shape of one of your own slave 
girls, or some belly dancer of the marketplace?  My poor, poor dear brother!"

	Ali shook her head.  "No, it is nothing like that.  Perhaps it is not so 
bad as that.  Or maybe it is worse.  I do not know."

	"Then show me.  I shall not quail."

	Reluctantly, Ali drew down the dust veil.  

	Ayeesha's eyes started; she reflexively clenched the bedclothes.

	"Brother, you -- you look like --"

	"Yes," nodded Ali.  "I look like -- you. . . ."

		#

 	Scheherazade says:

		"Before many days had passed, Ali and Hassan's caravan set 
	out for the East, replete with many pack camels and thirty loyal 
	warriors on horseback.  But as swiftly as the royal party traveled, a 
	small group of its enemies traveled just as swiftly in pursuit -- Yusuf 
	and Mahmood, along with a few trusted hirelings from Achmed's 
	personal guard.  All of them began their journey unmindful of the 
	hazards of their undertaking, bedazzled as they were by the vizier's 
	extravagant promises of a rich golden reward.

		"Once far out in the desert, the cunning Yusuf hoped to steal 
	into Ali's night-camp and place the cruel bewitchment of Maiden's 
	Ruin upon him.  But, alas, by the will of Allah, a great sandstorm 
	swept the wilderness, and the tracks of the larger party were covered 
	up.  As they searched for their quarry, Yusuf and Mahmood became 
	hopelessly lost, falling many, many leagues behind their unsuspecting 
	quarry.

		"The journey was a long one, and the strain began to tell.  
	Despondency fell especially hard upon the young man who was a 
	man no longer."

		#

	They had crossed the borders of Persia that morning, and the beasts 
were rambling slowly along rocky, dry runs, grunting as they lurched over 
the ruts and gullies that scored the parched terrain.  Scrub weed dotted the 
landscape, and this humble growth was the only foliage in an otherwise-
barren world.  The shadows were waxing large with the sinking sun, though 
the heat was still oppressive.  Only the sounds of the wayfarers' animals 
broke the forlorn silence of the twilight.  

	At last Hassan gave the order to pause and set up the manzil, as the 
desert dwellers called their overnight camping sites, just as he had done many 
times before.  Ali, as had become usual, said nothing, but remained aloof.

	Before long, the campfires had bathed the rippled dunes with ruddy 
light and the men were serving out their rations of rice, camel milk, butter, 
and a bit of hare-meat taken in the last hunt.  Ali ate swiftly, as usual, then 
rose and withdrew beyond the glow of the firelight.  Hassan had noticed her 
solemn departure and then frowned down into his plate.  He had learned the 
hard way that it did not profit to disturb his friend at such times, but yet Ali's 
black mood seemed to be unending.  This night, concerned beyond the 
bounds of self-restraint, the warrior got up and followed the heir of 
Damascus to a remote spot under the white moonlight.

	There Hassan espied his comrade sitting alone, forlornly staring at the 
sky.  Hassan quietly sloughed through the deep sand until he stood close 
behind her.  The prince must have heard him, but deigned not to look back, 
merely shifting uncomfortably, as if to signal that she did not wish to be 
disturbed.

	"Ali, the night is cold.  Come back by the fire."

	"Leave me, Hassan.  I know when to come out of the cold."

	It was not the first time he had been so rebuffed, but Hassan 
persisted:  "At least uncover your face, Ali.  What is the point in hiding it out 
here in the desert?  I, at least, already know what Ayeesha looks like."  He 
reached out to take her dust veil.  

	Ali struck at his hand.  "I said leave me!"

	Hassan stood up tall.  "I have been mistaken.  I thought that we were 
following a prince.  Now I see that we are escorting a modest girl -- one who 
veils her face before men, one who humbly demurs from speaking, one who 
seeks seclusion --"

	With a wild cry, Ali sprang at Hassan and threw a punch at his face.  
The warrior dodged the blow, and the girl's feet slipped in the shifting sand.  
She would have fallen face-down, except that her swift comrade grabbed her 
in time.

	Held, the prince fought hard to get away.  "Jackal!" she yelled.  
"Release me!  If this had happened to you, I would never treat you so!"

	"You might not!" he said as he controlled her thrashing as he would 
have a stripling boy's.  "But I hope I would not be acting so foolishly about 
what could not be helped."

	He released her then and she staggered back.  Hassan softened his 
tone:  "I see one whom I have loved like a brother becoming a stranger.  It is 
a loss which I cannot bear."

	She turned away and faced the dark emptiness.  "I wish I were a beast 
down on four legs rather than a woman!"

	"You cannot mean that, Ali."

	"I do!  It is better to be pitied than laughed at!"

	"No one is laughing at you.  I am your friend, and these men are your 
most faithful retainers."

	"What are they saying then?" she demanded with balled fists.  "That 
this curse is the judgement of Allah?"

	"Nothing of the kind!"

	"Why not?"

	"What do you mean, 'Why not?'"

	Her answer came in a low whisper.  "I ask that because I have 
thought the same myself."

	He looked at her with amazement.  "Why?"

	Ali now settled dejectedly to the ground.  "It makes sense, Hassan.  -- 
You of all men know how I used to talk, used to admit that I was reluctant to 
assume the responsibilities of my birth.  This is Allah's vengeance."

	He dropped down beside her.  "No, my friend, it is only the evil deed 
of some unknown sorcerer.  Allah does not avenge himself for every small 
shortcoming.  He is called 'el Rahman,' the Merciful, remember?  If He were 
as vengeful against me as you believe he has been against you, I would be a 
donkey by now, not a man."

	"So you say, but I cannot help but feel that I've been unworthy."

	Hassan shook his head emphatically.  "I cannot see it!  Anyway, we 
will soon reach Marshan and restore you.  Then no one except us few shall 
ever know that you were once bewitched."

	Ali looked into his face and Hassan saw the uncertainty in her brown 
eyes.  "But what if our quest fails?  What will my life be then?  Shall I take a 
room in the women's quarters next to Ayeesha's?  Shall my father have two 
daughters?  Should he announce a rich dowry and find me a mate?"

	The warrior was saddened that such evil fantasies were going through 
his friend's head.  "Whatever your fate, God alone knows it.  But, Allah 
willing, I shall be forever at your side."  He reached again for her veil, this 
time carefully, respectfully.  

	Ali caught the wrist in mid-course, but this time not in anger.  She 
instead clasped it in a silent pledge of trust and camaraderie.  Then she 
reached up and dropped the mask herself.

		#

	Scheherazade says:

		"The friendship of Ali and Hassan, strong before that night 
	upon the dunes, now grew deeper and closer still.

		"After hundreds of leagues of taxing travel, the royal caravan 
	reached its long-desired goal -- the city Marshan, which lay below the 
	last mountain obstacle before the vast plains country of Khwarizm.

		"Long before the soldiers of Damascus drew near, the sultan 
	of Marshan had been informed by his watchful outriders, and a guard 
	of honor was dispatched to escort Ali and Hassan to the palace."

		 #

	The palace steward met the Syrian visitors cordially and ushered 
Prince Ali and Lord Hassan to quarters worthy of their dignity.  He also 
extended the sultan's invitation that they should join him at feast upon 
sundown of the following day.

	"Wait," remarked Ali as the man began to withdraw, keeping her 
voice low and gruff so that the steward would not suspect her secret.

	"Sire?" the little man asked.

	"We have heard very strange tales concerning Marshan."

	"Ah, yes," nodded the steward suppressing a smile, "no doubt these 
stories concern the Magic Fountain of Marshan."

	"Yes," agreed Ali.  "Does such an amazing thing truly exist?"

	"I believe it exists," said the jovial steward, "for I have seen it 
perform its miracle many a time.  You may see it for yourselves.  As it 
happens, some men will be transformed tomorrow."

	"Transformed?  Why would any man wish to subject himself to such 
a ghastly fate?" Hassan put in.

	"Not by any choice of their own!  The sultan's nephew and some 
young bravos gambled themselves into debt and then robbed some outlying 
villages to pay their moneylenders.  They dressed as bandits and hoped that 
bandits would receive the blame for their evil deeds.  But Allah was not 
deceived, and He caused them to be discovered.  The most guilty of them 
have been condemned to be cast into the Fountain.  They then shall be turned 
over to the royal whip-masters and trained to be slave girls."

	Hassan and Ali exchanged perplexed glances.  

	"You say that the chastisement is public?" asked the Syrian warrior of 
the Marshanese.

	"Of course!  What is more edifying than to see those who break 
Allah's commandments punished by His own miracle?  The punishments 
always draw a large crowd, but because it has been a long time since a high-
born one has been condemned, the whole of the city shall doubtless turn out 
to see it."

	Hassan shook his head dubiously.  "I do not think --"

	"No," broke in Ali.  "We must satisfy ourselves that everything they 
say is true."  She touched Hassan's arm.  "We  must."

	The steward swelled with pride at these foreigners' appreciation of his 
country's uniqueness.  "You shall see that it is exactly as I have told you, 
Great Prince."

		#

	The next morning Hassan and Ali saw something of Marshan, a 
wealthy, well-adorned city, with prosperous-looking people going hither and 
thither.  Slave girls thronged the streets, and Hassan noted that they were not 
dressed with the same modesty that their Syrian counterparts displayed.  
Their halters were often sparse, flaunting exuberant cleavage, and their 
shaven legs sometimes flashed beguilingly through flowing skirts of veils.  

	They quietly passed by a slave market, which was poorly attended 
this morning -- probably because the punishment was just then drawing so 
many people away from the bazaar.  There could be no other excuse, in as 
much as the women on display were young and beautiful, and dressed even 
more wantonly than the slave maids in the streets.

	"Fountain girls," remarked their escort, a captain of Marshan.

	"What do you mean?" rumbled Ali.

	"These are rebels who were captured last spring," explained the 
officer.  "They were cast into the fountain and then rigorously trained.  
Because rebellion is a most terrible crime, these wretches are earmarked to be 
sold only to foreign caravaneers.  It is the wish of the magistrates that they 
live out their lives far from their native city."

	"What land would want such accursed creatures?" the prince inquired.

	The captain gave a short laugh.  "The fountain girls of Marshan are 
eagerly sought out by connoisseurs of female flesh.  Some men find it a rare 
thrill to wring cries of pain and mortification from a nubile girl who was 
once, perhaps, as virile and well-endowed as they."

	"Is that what the men of Marshan think also?" asked Hassan.

	Their guide shrugged.  "Some do, I suppose.  But most think about 
the matter little, if at all.  Fountain girls are too commonplace hereabout for 
any serious man to concern himself with them."

	Hassan could not believe that 'fountain girls' could ever be 
considered commonplace, at any time and in any place.  Marshan seemed to 
him a wicked town, like Sodom in the days of old!  The warrior looked up 
into the sky, as if half-expecting the dark clouds of the city's coming 
destruction to be descending from Allah's abode even at that moment.

	This reproving thought seemed quickly validated when he saw a small 
crowd gathered around a young woman who was chained in front of wall.  
She was totally nude, except for a slave collar about her throat.

 	Hassan leaned toward the captain.  "Is such a display not a scandal 
here?"

	"Not at all!  A public exhibition is one means to punish a displeasing 
slave."

	"It is a harsh punishment!" 

	"No blood flows, shame leaves no scars.  As punishments go, it is 
merciful," the soldier maintained, not perturbed.

	Hassan shuddered.

	They passed through the main city port, and before long they reached 
the precincts of the fountain.  Hassan had expected to see a small pool fed by 
a spring.  It was, in fact, a large pond whose edge was trimmed with a 
coping of stone blocks.  On the opposite bank there stood a grand official 
edifice which, their guide explained, was a law court.  Many trials were held 
there, he assured them.  

	How intimidating it must be, Hassan reasoned, for the felon to be 
tried overlooking the magic water which might soon supply his punishment.

	A large crowd had massed up near the water's edge, and the captain 
rode his horse slowly into the midst of it, shouting:  "Make way!  Make way 
for the sultan's royal guests!"

	The mob parted readily enough.  Perhaps, thought Hassan, the 
sultan's low tolerance for rebels and rioters had something to do with their 
docility down there next to the pond's edge.

	The captain dismounted and Ali and Hassan, doing likewise, slid 
down from their saddles to stand at either side of him.  Hassan espied a 
group of guards and a smaller group of distinguished-looking elders over by 
the coping.  These latter, wearing fine robes and pure white muslin turbans, 
seemed to be the presiding magistrates.

	Two men stood between the guards, their hands tied in front of them.  
The captive pair wore good clothes, and these would certainly be a couple of 
the scoundrels who had raised havoc in the countryside.

	"Bring forward Kislar Ibn Aglar," commanded one of the 
magistrates.

	Two of the guards shoved the felon up before the judge.  "Have you 
anything to say before sentence is enacted?" the later queried.

	"There is no justice in Marshan!" the young felon declared loudly.  "I 
am an innocent man.  I fell in with bad companions, true, but always did I 
seek to dissuade them from deeds of rascality."  

	It was the man's apparent sincerity which persuaded more than his 
weasel words.  But Hassan knew that many men, especially the sort common 
among ambitious politicians, were skilled and shameless liars.  He suspected 
that Vizier Achmed was such a one, in fact.

	A magistrate raised his hand to silence the man's pleading.  "Our 
evidence finds you have been the worst of a bad lot, that you were 
indefatigable in egging on your despicable comrades to horrendous offenses.  
For that reason, Kislar Ibn Aglar, it is meet that you be punished first."  He 
then gestured to the guards.

	The two men obligingly dragged the felon to the edge of the pool, 
though Kislar dug in his heels and fought them all the way.  A third guard 
came forward with a looped rope, and this he slipped over the head of Ibn 
Aglar and slid taut about the man's waist.

	That being done, the pair seized their charge by the arms and legs, 
picked him up, rocked him back and forth, and finally hurled him out into the 
water, well beyond the stone coping.

	The felon apparently couldn't swim, or was simply too shocked to 
try.  Instead, he splashed frantically at the surface and yelled bloody murder.  
Hassan watched for any sign of a physical change, but could see little due to 
the distance, the victim's clothes, and the amount of water being thrown 
about.  Nonetheless, he very quickly did discern that the manly howl of terror 
became very quickly a woman's shrill.  

	Now the guards were drawing the felon back to the stone-faced  edge, 
and dragging him out of the fountain.

	"Are the guards not afraid to touch the water?" Ali asked of the 
captain.

	The Marshanese shook his head.  "The guards who perform this duty 
are actually transformed women.  They have taken wives, and so cannot be 
changed by the waters again."

	Hassan blenched.  This was a mad place, and he dearly wished to be 
away from it as soon as possible.

	The crowd craned its necks to see what sort of woman Kislar had 
turned into, but for the moment he was left to lie like a great wet mass of 
laundry on the bank.  

	Next Lord Dwar was summoned up before the other judge.  No doubt 
he had been unnerved by Kislar's punishment, but Hassan still shook his 
head at the sight of such cowardice.  Dwar was craven, begging, 
importuning, incoherent.  Kislar's unctuous pleading had been the model of 
manly fortitude by comparison. 

	The judge stilled him with a shout:  "You are a disgrace to your noble 
family line!  They have disowned you, cast you out.  All you have to say has 
been said before.  Naught is left, except that the punishment mandated by law 
is carried out!"  

	At his signal, the guards carried Dwar along, because he refused to 
walk.  A scant three minutes later a figure babbling in a woman's voice was 
drawn out of the pool.

	"Is Lord Dwar the highest-ranked personage ever to be so punished, 
Captain?" Hassan asked.

	"Not so," the young officer replied.  "The fifth sultan of the first 
dynasty was also so punished."

	"A sultan?" exclaimed Hassan.  "How can that be?"

	"The man was an unworthy cur," the guide explained with knitted 
brows.  "He lied, he cheated, he committed adultery with other men's wives.  
The Fifth Sultan broke every stricture of the Koran.  Never since the days of 
Nimrod has their been a more evil man upon a throne of grace.  

	"That is saying much," remarked Hassan.

	"It only gives the Fifth Sultan his due.  In his youth, instead of 
training for war, he went away to Isfahan to study law.  While there he 
defamed his own city and espoused the virtue of our foes.  When the Fourth 
Sultan died, the wicked son who succeeded him secretly debauched the 
daughters of good families, those who had been sent to the palace as royal 
wards.  He despised all that was cleanly and favored all which was debased.  
Though children are the most beloved of Allah, he declared that children 
might be killed at the instigation of their mothers, and by those whom their 
dams paid to the deed, if they deigned not to commit the horrendous murders 
themselves."

	Hassan glanced away.  Such evil could never have been performed by 
a living man.  Surely the Fifth Sultan was only a myth, a cautionary tale of 
how depraved a head of state might become, but yet never had been.  But, to 
the Syrian's surprise, the captain's catalogue of depravity was by no means 
finished:

	"The Fifth Sultan surely did not believe in Allah, though he swore 
false oaths in the name of the Most High.  Indeed, the wicked sultan made 
war upon all of his people who did not espouse atheism, even forbidding the 
symbols of Ramadan to be raised during the Holy Month.  

	"But, strange to say, as fierce and rapacious as the misbegotten sultan 
was toward the weak and innocent, he was in fact the least of men.  He had a 
First Wife who was harsh and mannish in her manner, oftentimes 
discoursing in public and using words that made even harlots blush.  This 
harridan witch was permitted by her spineless husband to perform magisterial 
functions traditionally forbidden to her sex.  She even had leave to command 
the royal ministers and to voice her ignorance and prejudice at all the meetings 
of the royal council.    

	"The wicked queen engaged and dismissed servants of the state and, 
far worse, she was heard to boast that Marshan had two sultans -- and her 
craven lord accepted this insult."  The captain shook his head in disgust.  "A 
true man would have ordered such an unnatural consort to be quartered 
between running stallions for such an affront!

	"Oh, the sins of that man!  His father had already raised the taxes 
greatly, but the first royal act of the son was to raise them much higher still.  
Great wealth came to the treasury, even more than his extravagance found the 
means to spend, but the Fifth Sultan would never reduce his onerous 
assessments upon the people.  He made the worst of men mighty in the 
courts and these rogues followed not Koranic law, but their own capricious 
whim.  At last, tired of the need to buy forgiveness from the people by 
weeping in public address with quivering lip and red eyes, the Cursed of God 
imported foreign Turks from inner Khwarizm who knew not Allah, and lewd 
Indians who daily shed blood at the pagan altars of beast-faced demons.  
Those who protested the sultan's impiety were callously murdered by these 
hired assassins, and their bodies left  in gardens, sewers, and parks.

	"At long last, the people rose in anger and though the sultan's 
hirelings killed many, they could not fight all the people of the city.  Indeed, 
the hosts of the town were greatly reinforced by hordes of farmers and 
shepherds who came from the hinterlands bearing scythes and lion-spears.  

	"The cowardly sultan was at last taken.  He, along with his evil 
minions and his unwomanly wife, was cast into the pool."

	"Women are so punished, too?" asked Hassan.

	The captain nodded.  "Sometimes.  The First Wife was sent as a man 
to the salt quarries, to use her strength to carry heavy baskets from the mines 
to the wagons -- be it under the broiling sun or the cold wind of the season, 
and ever she groaned under the threat of the lash." 

	"What happened to the sultan?" Ali asked, forgetting to modulate her 
voice.  Its pitch brought a sudden look of puzzlement to the captain's eyes.  
He looked about, as if supposing that another had spoken.   Nonetheless, he 
answered the question:

	"There was a foreign king, a cruel man, but one whom the Fifth 
Sultan had often attacked, not from cause, but merely to dispel the general 
contention that Marshan's lord was a coward.  To this king was the sultan 
sold as a slave girl.  It is said that for many weeks the former sultan was kept 
naked and chained by the neck under the table in the king's dining hall.  She 
was not permitted to speak, except to whine for food and water like a bitch 
whines.  Further, she was trained to please the men who sat at the king's 
table by the means of her hands and her mouth, even while they feasted from 
the table overhead.  When she was permitted the relief of copulation, it came 
with the male assailing her from behind, directly, coldly, without gentling 
kisses or soothing caresses."

	"What happened then?"

	The captain shrugged.  "It is unclear.  With time, most people ceased 
to inquire after the Fifth Sultan.  I think, too, that her kingly captor wearied 
of the kind of amusement which she had afforded him.  There are divers 
stories of the subsequent fate of the Most Wretched of Allah, but none of 
them are more than rumor."

	Hassan shook his head in disbelief.  What sultanate would allow its 
master, even one of very evil repute, to be treated so by a foreign rival?  A 
clean axe upon the neck of a fallen monarch was to be expected, but the 
degradation of a sultan degraded his city also.

	An agitation in the crowd around them brought Hassan's attention 
back to the matter at hand.  The judges had resumed the punishment of the 
felons after a brief recess.

	"Because you two were the leaders of your despicable band," one 
addressed the prostrate Dwar and Kislar, "because you are high-born, and 
your deeds are therefore the more deplorable, your punishment shall come 
first.  By the law of the sultan, I declare each of you slave.  Guards, strip the 
bondmaids!"

	The guards commenced to tear the sodden garments from the 
convicted robbers.  Possibly, the Syrian nobleman supposed, the fact that 
these guards were formerly females made their present duty a particularly 
satisfying one for them.

	When the condemned pair were finally rolled out of their voluminous 
garments, two new nude women were seen.  One of them was yellow-haired, 
like a Circassian.  The other girl was olive-complected, with black, flowing 
tresses.  Both were slimly voluptuous.  Had Hassan not known their origin, 
he would have been impressed and allured.

	The onlooking mob huzzahed loudly and Hassan heard some bawdy 
comments.  The guards worked quickly to bind the girls, and in a nonce the 
punished felons were tied back-to-back.  Kislar and Dwar were subsequently 
carried as a joined pair through the crowd to be placed before a screen of 
lathes.

	The screen was intended to protect their skin from the sun somewhat, 
but because it was latticed, it allowed the curious to gape at the condemned 
ones from all four sides, like beasts in a menagerie. 

 	Afterwards, the remainder of the young hellions were punished.  
These were not stripped and displayed immediately, but the judges did not 
omit the necessary formality of pronouncing all of them to be chattel.  
Finally, bound hand and foot and thrown into a donkey cart, they were taken 
away.  The two ringleaders were, last of all, brought from their place of 
display and slung up into a cart of their own.  The ne'er-do-wells of the town 
and a large number of lewd little boys walked beside the conveyance as it 
rolled along.  These individuals taunted the wagon's occupants raucously 
while the guards made certain that their boisterousness did not get out of 
hand. 

	Hassan had seen more than he had wanted of this matter and wished 
to be gone.  Only then did it cross his mind that Ali might be well-advised to 
simply go to the edge of the water at that point and jump in.  In fact, when he 
saw his friend gazing in that direction, he half-expected that she was about to 
do exactly that.  But, for whatever reason, the heir of Damascus stirred not a 
step from where she stood and, when their official escort offered to take them 
back to the palace, she turned away from the fountain and swung up into her 
saddle.  


		Chapter Four

		Think, in this batter'd caravanserai 
		Whose doorways are alternate Night and Day,
 		How sultan after sultan with his pomp
		Abode his hour or two, and went his way.

 	Ali and Hassan kept close to their own quarters until twilight and did 
not speak of the day's events.  At long last, having donned raiment suitable 
for the occasion, the pair united once again to accompany the palace stewards 
to the sultan's feast.  Ali had selected a deeply-cowled robe to help her with 
her imposture.  This strange choice of attire was explained away as being part 
of a pilgrim's vow.  When circumstances forced her to speak, she made an 
effort, as before, to keep her voice throaty and deep.

	The Sultan Moustafa of Marshan was a tall, dark man in his thirties, 
displaying the graceful demeanor of a cultured and intellectual prince.  He 
was a convivial host attentive to his guests, presenting jugglers, musicians, 
acrobats, and dancers for his guests' entertainment.  Servants bearing flasks 
and trays wove in and out of the crowd, supplying all their culinary needs, 
while across from Ali and Hassan a raven-haired young beauty performed a 
belly dance to the rhythm of zithers and rattles.  The bells on her bejeweled 
girdle jingled loudly as her shivering hips became just a blur.  

	Both of the Syrian guests noted the lavish wealth thereabouts 
displayed, and Hassan acknowledged it graciously:  "We are amazed by the 
wealth of your land, Mighty Sultan.  It bespeaks an industrious people and a 
wise stewardship."

	The black-bearded sovereign nodded.  "Long ago, before a shepherd 
discovered the magical fountain, there was not even a village here.  No one 
knew of the spring's existence.  I say no one, but I exclude the audacious 
bandit band which hid in the mountains nearby.  They preyed upon caravans 
to kidnap travelers, whom they cast into the fountain and afterwards sold in 
foreign markets."

	"My prince and I have seen the magic fountain today, O Sultan, and 
we witnessed the terrible thing which it does.  We have since wondered why 
your good people have not destroyed it long ago."

	"Destroy our magic fountain?" the sultan replied with a blink of 
perplexity.  "Never!  It is the eighth wonder of the world."

	"It is an affront before Allah!" admonished Hassan, his effort at 
politeness strained.

	The sultan banished the obvious tension with a broad smile.  No 
doubt he had heard such words from many a newcomer to Marshan.  "No 
work of Allah is an affront, Lord Hassan.  It is only how men use God's 
gifts that makes for good or evil.  Let me tell you a story, my friends:  

	"In the last century a holy man of the Nestorian faith came to our land 
and did long meditation before our fountain, endeavoring to divine whether it 
was a gift of God, or an evil tool of Iblis, the prince of demons.

	"He returned to our city after a few days with wonder in his eyes and 
a glorious revelation to reveal.  He said that the angel Gabriel had appeared to 
him and told him the secret of the fountain.

	"When Allah created Adam, said the sage, He later made Woman 
from the Man's body to be his companion.  But the first woman was not like 
the women of today, despite the stories which would make her to be so.  No, 
Eve was another man, junior to Adam because Adam had been created first, 
but Eve was like him in all his parts -- and, as we know, Adam was made in 
the image of God.

	"When Eve sinned and led her companion into sin, Allah was very 
wrought and sent the angel Michael to smite the ground of Eden.  From that 
place which he struck, a fountain sprang forth, and the archangel placed into 
it the power of God.  Then he said to the man Eve, 'You shall no longer be 
complete in yourself, but  you shall live in eagerness for your mate's embrace 
and contribute to his increase, and he shall be called husband and be your 
master in all things.' 

	"Then the archangel cast Eve into the fountain, and she came forth 
from it changed, less perfect in the image of God, perhaps, but more 
beautiful in the eyes of her husband -- yea, beautiful beyond all his previous 
dreams of beauty.  Only now did Eve possess all the divers parts of the 
woman as we know Woman today.  As God decreed, Adam was smitten 
with passion for Eve, as Eve was smitten with passion for Adam.  

	"Then Michael said to the fallen pair, 'As Eve was desirous of eating 
of the fruit of the tree, the fruit shall be placed upon Adam, and Eve will 
forever be desirous of consuming it, and the hunger shall be of the loins, and 
the throat shall be the throat of a second mouth which God has provided for 
her.  Moreover, any who enter the fountain from this day forth shall be 
changed like Eve, so that her descendants will know the glory of God.  
Forever after, if he is like Adam, he will become like Eve, and if like Eve, 
like Adam.'"

	"Majesty, are you saying that this land is the old Eden?" inquired 
Hassan with knitted brows.

	"I repeat only what the holy man averred," replied the sultan genially, 
"as our ancestors have passed it down.  This is a fine land, I will not deny.  
But not so fine, I think, as Eden was.  Allah, who is all-wise and all-
powerful, may make a fountain that flows in one place flow at another at a 
different moment.  He is Allah."

	"A strange gift of God," remarked the Syrian warrior.  "Of what 
possible use is the fountain to man, Majesty?  We have seen in it only an 
object of terror.  What can it offer but punishment, and a cruel satisfaction to 
those who punish?"

	The sultan shook his head.  "No, warrior, you know little of what 
you speak.  God is good.  His fountain is good.  It is our fount of increase.  
It is the flowing source of all our wealth."

	"Your wealth?  I do not understand."

	Moustafa smiled proudly.  "Why, have you not seen our abundance?"

	"I have seen it," answered the Syrian, "but what does it have to do 
with the fountain?"

	"Why, it is only by the grace of Allah we have ten ewes for every 
ram, ten cows for every bull, ten hens for every cock.  Our flocks grow so 
swiftly that it taxes the ingenuity of all our people just to tend to them, and of 
our merchants who must travel far to take such an overflowing surplus to 
market."

	Hassan only now realized that more females inevitably meant more 
increase, but even yet he would refuse to concede any point.  "Think of the 
misery that the fountain brings to human beings!"

	"What misery, young lord?  If an accident happens, if a clumsy sot 
falls into the magical waters by misstep, no harm is done.  He can simply re-
immerse himself and all shall be as before with him.  Instead, think of Allah's 
blessing upon the parents of Marshan!  Chance never need deny a father the 
son he yearns for.  I myself have twenty sons and not one daughter!"

	Hassan stared open-mouthed.  "No daughters?  How does your 
population grow?  Do your people not value daughters at all?" 

	"They are greatly valued indeed!" the sultan assured him with keen, 
amused eyes.  "The rareness of a free woman makes her especially precious 
to us of Marshan.  Even a free peasant's daughter may have her pick of a 
dozen wealthy husbands.  I think there is no land in all the realm of the 
Prophet that prizes its girl-children more highly.  Alas, few parents desire a 
girl.  Such is the custom of our race, which goes back to the days when we 
were a poor wandering people who needed many warriors to defend the 
herds from man and beast."

	"A kingdom so poor in womenfolk must soon wither and die, 
Majesty, even if your flocks of brute beasts increase beyond measure."

	"We are not so desperate as all that, Lord Hassan," the sultan replied 
jovially.  "Our wealth allows us to purchase young females from afar -- 
indeed the fairest in all the world are brought to our door!"

	Hassan gestured to the belly dancer.  "So I see.  From what land does 
this sultry beauty hail?"

	The performer was a striking, slim-hipped girl whose full breasts 
strained against a halter of metal sequins.  Realizing that the men were 
speaking about her, the slave's eyes flashed with fire and allure.

	"She comes from no land but our own," Moustafa assured him, 
beckoning the girl nearer.  When she had draw nigh, he reached out and 
placed a hand upon a nude thigh.

	"This one was Ben Jakhar, a notorious robber --"

 	Ali gasped; Hassan could scarcely believe his ears.  Ben Jakhar was 
certainly no woman's name.  Neither of them could have imagined 
themselves so beguiled by the sinuous movements of one who had been an 
outlaw ruffian.

	"As you already know," the sultan went on, "unworthy men -- 
thieves, rioters, traitors -- all who are judged guilty of breaking the law of 
Allah or man, -- are cast into the waters of the fountain.  Changed into 
women, they are set to performing useful tasks, as you can see."

	"We understand some of your practices, Great One," said Hassan, 
trying to keep his voice from shaking, "though my mind still revolts a 
punishment of this sort!  Surely there is a better way to deal with wrongdoing 
than such an unnatural transformation.  Bitter wretches of this type must 
make poor servants."

	The sultan gave a short laugh.  "The wretches, as you call them, are 
well-trained in giving service and pleasure to the households which purchase 
them.  Moreover, our ancestors discovered a potion, one which inevitably 
sweetens the most sour disposition.  We call it, "Maiden's Ruin."

	The belly dancer cast a wink at Hassan, who looked uncomfortably 
away.  He could not fathom the mind of one who had been through what Ben 
Jakhar must have been through, and would have shrunk from her touch.

	"Enough talk of magic," proclaimed Sultan Moustafa.  "Perhaps you 
will desire more manly sport hereafter.  I have desired of late to take my 
huntsmen up the heights to track and slay the savage mountain lion.  
Tomorrow would be a fine day for this!"

	Hassan endeavored to answer for both himself and Ali.  "Thank you 
Mighty Sultan, but --

	"That would be most enjoyable, Great One," broke in the Syrian 
prince.

	Moustafa smiled in pleasure.  "Let our servants guide you back to 
your separate quarters, my welcome guests.  Might I send a girl or two to 
entertain you gentlemen?"  He looked with particular interest toward Ali, 
whose voice seemed to betray a very young man.

	To spare his friend embarrassment, Hassan spoke up:  "A girl like 
Ben Jakhar?  I think not, Majesty!"

	Moustafa shook his head.  "Be assured, lords -- only women-born 
shall be selected for you, since you seem to stipulate it.  I myself do not 
understand the prejudice, but many of our visitors think as you do -- That is, 
they do until they have dwelt with us for some little while."

	"Hassan may do as he pleases, Great Sultan," said Ali, "but I have 
sworn at the mosque of Damascus to practice celibacy as one of my sacrifices 
for the success of our pilgrimage."

	The sultan gave the speaker an understanding nod.  "Then I shall send 
you a story-telling girl only, young prince.  You are under no compulsion to 
abstain from the diversion of flute, song, and story, are you?"

	"No, Majesty, none," responded Ali, somewhat abashed that the 
monarch was assuming that she was some sort of child.

	"Then so it shall be!" pronounced the sultan with a nod of his head.

		#

	Hassan and Ali both felt the need to speak privately, and so they 
excused themselves at the earliest hour that it was seemly to do so and 
returned to the prince's chamber. 

	Hassan, more than a little overwhelmed with the events of the day, 
unburdened himself roughly and without preamble.  "Ali -- why would you 
not end your cruel ordeal when you were at the fountain?  And if you would 
not do so then, why did you not simply inform the sultan exactly why we 
came?  It would have made everything so much easier."

	Ali, taking umbrage at the rebuke, squared off with her friend.  "And 
let strangers gossip about my humiliation for the next hundred years, like 
they still gossip about the Fifth Sultan?  For the love of Allah, let me salvage 
what little pride I have left!"

	"All right, then," replied Hassan with strained patience, "just what do 
you intend to do?"

	The Damascene prince paced the floor while her mind raced.  "We 
have found that they allow visitors to take water from the fountain at will.  It 
is free to all who would have it, and they do not even post a guard.  One of 
our guards shall simply draw some magic water at a very early hour when 
few others are present, and then I shall bathe in private.  Once I do, this 
nightmare will be at an end and no one will be the wiser."

	"I hope so, my friend," Hassan murmured, doubting the wisdom of 
making something so essentially simple so unnecessarily complex.

	Ali flopped down on the bed and crossed her black boots.  "What I 
wouldn't give to return to a normal life," with a sigh that was more like a 
moan.  She seemed to reflect on that subject for a moment, but then went off 
on a tangent.  "Ayeesha wants just the opposite.  Hassan, can you believe 
that she actually asked me to bring her back a bottle of the magical water?"

	This did surprise Hassan, though knowing Ayeesha for the hoyden 
she was, the actual degree of his surprise was lessened.  "She's a strange 
girl.  I always found her a willful child," was all his reply.

	"I -- regard -- you both so well," Ali confessed uncomfortably.  "I 
have never understood why you two never felt any attraction, one for the 
other."

	Hassan looked perplexedly at his comrade.  This was certainly a fair 
question, but one to which Hassan had no good answer.  "I don't know.  
She certainly is beautiful --"  He caught himself.  To say that Ayeesha was 
beautiful was also to say that Ali was beautiful.  

	"Ah, but she is too disputant," he continued edgily.  "A woman 
should be more --"  He caught himself again.  To say that a woman should be 
more compliant to those responsible for her was also to imply that Ali should 
be more of the same.  Hassan certainly didn't mean to infer that.

	"I mean," he said quickly, "she blames all of life's troubles on males.  
A women like that always make life a curse for any man who stands close to 
her."

	Ali seemed not to have picked up on any of her friend's verbal 
titubations.  "She hates her confinement, that's all," the prince said with a 
grimace.  "She envies a man's freedom, even though I have tried to explain to 
her that so much of what seems to be freedom is simply obligations and 
restrictions of another kind."  The male-dressed maid then gave a short, bitter 
laugh.  "I have ceased to believe that any choice makes a human being happy.  
What happiness does choice impart these people of Marshan?"

	"I see no choice exercised here," Hassan scowled.  "Girl-children are 
transformed to suit the needs of their families, men are metamorphosed for 
punishment for their crimes.  As for Ayeesha, she would defy a way of life 
that a thousand generations of men and women have found fulfilling.  What if 
individuals occasionally resent what society demands of them?  There will 
always be malcontents.  The rules were made to help guide people to useful 
application and happiness.  And we who just follow the rules should not be 
accused of oppressing others who like them not."

	Ali sank back, her eyes closed.  "One instinctively accepts the way 
things are," she said, "-- accepts the world which he was born into, but does 
he ever actually understand it?"

	Hassan shrugged.  "Other peoples have other ways.  I envy the 
infidels, sometimes, except for their false beliefs concerning God.  The 
Frankish knight may at least pay court to a lady of his choice.  We of the 
Faithful may only marry those whom our parents choose for us.  My father 
will doubtlessly select a daughter-in-law whom I have never seen or spoken 
to, one whom I know nothing of.  The Franks, or so I understand it, may see 
their beloved's face many times before they decide to wed."

	"Is their way so much better than ours?" mused Ali.  "Would not a 
woman who is permitted to communicate daily with men soon become bawdy 
and impure?"

	Hassan smiled.  "Is bawdy and impure always bad in a woman?  I 
have heard that Crusader women ride with their men, go hawking with them, 
try their hand together at archery, or jointly explore the bazaars --"  Hassan 
checked himself, although this time he was unsure exactly why.

	"But these are idle fancies," the lord concluded hastily.  "We are what 
we are, and we live as our people have always lived, which is what Allah 
demands of us.  I am more concerned about another matter."

 	"What other matter?"

	"This lion hunt.  It is too dangerous."

	Ali sent him a puzzled stare.  "Since when have you lacked the valor 
for hunting lions?"

	"I mean too dangerous for you!" Hassan clarified.  "Ali, please, save 
the lion-hunting for -- for later.  In only one more day you may hunt in 
perfect safety."

	The puzzlement in his companion's eyes had become a glare.  "Do not 
try me, Hassan!  Today or tomorrow, I am no weakling -- not ever!"

	Hassan threw up his hands.  "And so you demonstrate your supposed 
strength by getting angry yet again!  Why can we not speak like we used to 
without always that demon of discord sitting upon your shoulder?"

	"It is only because you are always trying to patronize me!  Even in 
this ridiculous body I am still twice the man you ever were, so do not try to 
impress my limitations upon me!"

	"Twice the man?!  By Allah --  If your sister spoke the way you speak 
every day, you would --"  He cut off his rebuke.  What had he meant to say?  
That he would have put her over his knee?

	Ali sprang up, fists clenched.  "I am not my sister!"   

	This time Hassan did not seek to mollify.  "No!  She has more 
sense!"

	Ali then leaped with a cry of anger.  Hassan shrugged off her blow, 
spun her about, and then seized her at the waist.  Ali began to kick his shins 
and they both fell down into the pillows.  Their tussle went on long enough 
for Hassan to end the exchange by pinning her under him.  When the hot 
emotion of the moment had subsided, their faces were close enough for each 
to smell the wine-scented breath of the other.

	Embarrassed, Hassan released Ali, who hurriedly rolled away. 

	"It is folly to quarrel and come to blows," jabbered Hassan, standing.  
"I am restless tonight, and sharp-tempered, too.  I think I actually shall need 
that girl which the sultan offered me."

	Ali looked up at him with strange intensity.  "You have not needed a 
girl since we left Damascus!  Why do you need one now?"

	"If I want a girl, of what concern is it to you?"

	"No concern!" Ali exclaimed with jaw set hard.  "Do as you please!"  
Under her breath she muttered, "Whoremaster!"

	Hassan had heard that insult, but chose not to fling back a barb of his 
own.  "We will speak later, when you are -- more yourself!"

	Then the warrior stalked off.  In exiting, he nearly charged into a 
pretty slave on the other side of the door.  Her muttered apology warned Ali 
in time enough to raise up her cowl again.  The maid stepped into the 
chamber immediately afterwards and did obeisance.

	"You are the girl which the sultan promised to send me?" the prince 
asked in that low, throaty voice which was the closest she could come to 
masculine elocution.

	"Yes, O Prince.  My name is Katya.  I sing, recite, and play the 
zither."

	Ali, in a sour mood, answered harshly:  "Then sing, damn it!"

	The heir of Haroon then pitched herself down on the bed, with her 
head propped up with pillows, and her arms folded petulantly.

		#

	Hassan stared out the window while the slave girl Halima prepared 
his bed.  Although he had asked a steward that a concubine to be sent to him, 
he had in fact hardly glanced in her direction since her arrival.

	"Halima," he suddenly asked, "I have wondered --"

	The girl lowered her gaze attentively.  "Wondered what, Lord 
Hassan?"

	"Do you feel yourself cursed?"

	She looked up, bemused.  "For being a slave, lord?"

	He turned and regarded her for the first time.  "For being a woman."

	She answered nonplussed:  "Of course not, my lord.  Why should 
one?"

	Even Hassan was not certain where his train of thought was leading.  
"Allah permits the women of Marshan to change their fate.  Have you never 
thought about going to the fountain?"

	"No, never," she answered with a blink, "-- not even if the sultan 
would allow it.  And, to be sure, he would never permit any slave girl that 
privilege."

	Because Hassan said nothing more immediately, the girl supposed 
that he had dropped the subject.  "The bed awaits, noble master," she smiled.  
"How else may Halima please her lord?"

	His glance was troubled.  "You may advise me, little bird,  Tell me -- 
can a man ever be friends with a woman -- I mean as he may be friends with 
another man?"  Hassan immediately felt foolish to pose such a question. 

	Yet Halima did not hesitate to reply.  "Why should he wish to be 
friends with a woman, Lord, unless he has lost hope of ever becoming her 
lover?"

	This was not what Hassan had hoped to hear and he turned away 
again.  "A man cannot take to bed every woman whom he cares about."

	"Not his mother, not his sisters or his close female relations," the girl 
agreed, "but regarding all others, what obstacle may there be?"  Then she 
added knowingly, "Does Master speak with some particular lady in mind?"

	Hassan retreated behind conventions then, and flashed a false smile 
her way.  "Be quiet, lovely one, and kiss me."

		#

	The Sultan reclined upon his pillows smoking a hookah, while slave 
girls nestled close about him.  One, a belly dancer, now performed for him, 
the zills on her fingers chimed as her lean, exercised torso undulated with the 
suppleness of a python.  The sultan, already having feasted his eyes upon her 
kinetic beauty for a long while, suddenly stirred.

	"The rest of you, away!  Dancer, sit down beside me."

	The slave girls sprang up and raced from the chamber on lightly-
slippered feet.  The dancing girl ceased her performance, approached her 
lord, and settled down on the edge of Moustafa's cushions.  

	"Fair One," he addressed her, "all I know of thee was that you were 
once Ben Jakhar the bandit.  He, I recollect, plagued our hinterland for some 
few years before being taken and condemned.  In truth, I heard no more of 
thee, until the Minister of the Accounts dispatched you to me as a gift.  By 
what name did thy former master address thee?"

	The girl smiled.  "Danya, Great Sultan."

	"Yes, that is right, Danya," he nodded, recalling.  "A pretty name.  I 
have watched you often since you arrived, tender Danya.  You are to the eye 
what food is to the gullet."

	She tilted her head, her expression as sly as the sphinx's.  "I have 
been trained to please, Mighty Master, and not just the eye."

	"Haw!" laughed the sultan.  "I do like your forwardness!  Why do 
you not bewail your kismet, as other girls from the fountain sometimes do?"

	There was whimsy in Danya's fine, dark-cast features.  "I am 
content, Noble King.  Banditry was a hard life, and the bandit leader must be 
cruel to his followers no less than to his victims.  I was often hated; no one 
hates me now.  My burden is lightened."

	"And your present burden is not heavy?  You were free up in the 
mountains, a commander of men.  Now you are a slave, ordered to serve, 
one who may be switched at the pleasure of her masters."

	The belly dancer rested her head back upon a tasseled pillow.  "Yet I 
live in a palace and I sleep on silken sheets.  I have food to eat, and my 
companions are among the most beautiful women in all the world.  Is not an 
occasional switching a small price to pay for all of that?"  

	The sultan marveled how the light of the brazier danced in his 
companion's kohled eyes.  "Then you do not hate being either a woman or a 
slave?" he inquired.

	"Do you hate being a man and master, Mighty Sovereign?

	He was taken aback by the question.  "No, why should I?"

	"Must it be otherwise with me?" 

	"Our circumstances are nothing alike!"

	The belly dancer, without immediate reply, drew a de-thorned rose 
from a water-filled bowl on the table and laid it upon the sultan's lap.  Then 
she selected a second blossom and inserted its stem into her ebony hair.  
"This a wise man taught me, Supreme One.  Two lives are like two roses.  
Which of these roses is better than the other?"

	The handsome sultan frowned thoughtfully.  "How may I judge?  
Some roses are better than others, I am sure, but these two appear to be of 
identical quality."

	"Is Allah's gift of life not identical to all, also, my sultan?"  

	He shrugged.  "All lives are different.  Some persons are men, some 
are women.  Some are sick, some are fit.  Some are young, some are old.  
Some know grief, some know contentment.  You life is not at all like mine."

	She gazed wistfully at the roses in the bowl.  "Our lives are different, 
Mighty Master, but our gifts of life are equal."

	He regarded her now with added pleasure.  "You surely were born a 
man, for no woman could express a deep thought in words so simple.  Is 
there any wonder that I permit no woman to enter my chambers who was not 
born a man?  -- Save for my wives, of course."  He sighed like one under a 
heavy impost.  "That is one of several obligations a sultan must endure for 
the good of his people."  

	"I grieve for your sacrifice, my liege," Danya answered with her 
glance lowered, lest her words sound sarcastic.

	The sultan smiled broadly.  He had known hundreds of fountain 
girls, yet they all still fascinated him.  He stroked the silken fringe upon 
Danya's halter.  "Tell me, my lovely, when you were a man, how many girls 
did you make love to?"

	She hesitated ever so slightly before replying.  "As many as I wanted, 
Sire.  I raided villages.  I sold free women as slaves to foreign caravans.  
Sometimes I sold women even to the magistrates of Marshan, for some of 
them were corrupt.  I was audacious, even reckless, but mendacity in high 
officials permits recklessness to bandits, and I was for a long time given a 
free rein in exchange for what I provided."

	This confession drew no reaction from Moustafa; he had fought 
official corruption for his whole reign.  Some officeholders were eventually 
unmasked and punished, but some never were.  As he recalled, the testimony 
of Ben Jakhar had led to the fall of several bribe-taking scoundrels.  But, no 
doubt, some of his present magistrates were playing the same old game with 
the bandits of the present day.  The conflict with evil was never-ending.  

	He ran the back of his hand over the girl's powdered cheek.  That 
Ben Jakhar had been a genuine villain, he knew well.  But he put all that out 
of mind and simply asked:  "Were the women beautiful?"

	She looked up into his eyes, as few of his slave girls had the 
effrontery to do.  "Many were not, Great One.  His Majesty knows that the 
gift of beauty is given out all too sparingly.  But, alas, the fountain 
condemned me to take the shape of the most alluring dancing girl whom I 
ever raped --"

	The sultan cocked his head.  "You say that so matter-of-factly.  Does 
the memory not bring you regret and shame?"

	She shrugged.  "I have been raped many times myself since then, 
Transcendent Lord, so must I still feel guilty for that which I have long-since 
atoned for?   My trainers knew of my crimes, and so were particularly harsh 
with me."

	Moustafa smiled.  Somehow he doubted that this sly minx had ever 
experienced a twinge of guilt in all her life, either as a man or a woman.  
"How harsh were they?" he asked.  "You do not seem scarred by your 
ordeal.  Your saucy compliance does not appear to be that of a brute beast 
battered into a cowed tameness."

	Danya's smile revealed dual rows of perfect blue-white teeth.  "Your 
masters of the whip do not seek to make women dully tame," she explained.  
"They desire superb and active female slaves."

	Moustafa lifted a brow.  "Well, I must compliment the whip-masters 
of Marshan, for you are superb.  How is it that you have learned thy lessons 
so well?"

	"A girl under the whip is strongly motivated, Sire."

	"I expect so."  Then another thought came to him.  "How many men 
have you pleased?"

	"Very many.  Many of your guests have asked for me since I was 
brought to the palace.  Also, my former master oftentimes loaned me to his 
guests."

	"If that is so, tell me this, my quail -- who has more pleasure in the 
arms of the other?  Man or woman?"

	Danya looked into Moustafa's eyes searchingly, wondering if the 
truth or an artful lie would better serve his pleasure.  She decided to tell the 
truth.  "The woman, Mighty Sultan."

	This surprised the sovereign.  A man, he knew, might take his pick of 
many women.  Even a poor man had the means to sample the charms of 
countless harlots.  The woman, on the other hand, had to submit to him who 
deigns to exercise power over her, either through marriage or by purchase.  

	"Why the woman?" he asked earnestly.  "When I hold one who is 
beautiful, clean of limb, fresh of breath, and sweetly-scented, I cannot image 
that the woman under me enjoys half so much pleasure as I do."

	Danya smiled.  "So I believed, too, until Allah made me wise.  Think, 
Mighty Master:  A man is never free of the worry that a woman wants 
something of him, but seldom does he know precisely what she craves.  A 
woman, on the contrary, always knows what a man wants, and is fully 
capable of giving it.  For that reason she is at liberty to concentrate upon the 
sensations of the moment, and full concentration is necessary for plenary 
pleasure."

	"Interesting," remarked the sultan, teasing the pendant depending 
from her earlobe.  "Thou hast answered well.  I now wonder what bauble 
would bring gladness to thy heart.  Tell me what would please thee most, 
lovely Danya?  Freedom?"

	The belly dancer's lips parted in surprise, but any false sense of 
opportunity quickly subsided into resignation.  "No, not freedom, Master.  I 
can never to a man again, and it is hard for a woman to live free."  She gave a 
rueful laugh.  "Should I become a bandit again as I am?!  A bigger bandit 
would simply take me into his powerful hands, strip me, then either make me 
his rightless mistress, or sell for three copper pieces at the nearest 
caravansary."

	"Far more than three copper pieces, I think," said the sultan with an 
admiring grin.  "But you could become a free dancer."

	She shook her head.  "Should I leave my home in the palace for the 
straw tick of a traveling show?  Would I not have to submit to being seduced 
by every man of the troop, and then be beaten by their jealous wives?  And 
what should I do when beauty fades?  A free woman of elderly years is not 
cared for half so well as she of the palace shall be."

	"But you must want something, my bright-eyes."

	"Truly, Master, I do." 	 	The avid gleam in the girl's 
irises told the monarch not to promise too much.  "Do not ask for the world, 
lovely Danya.  You are only a slave, after all."

	"Yes, Master," the girl said with bowed head, trying not to show too 
much disappointment.

	"-- And, besides, I think that you have yet suffered little enough as a 
woman for all the evil you have done as a man."

	Danya perked up, undaunted by his frankness.  Empty flatteries are 
soon forgotten, she knew; what her lord was offering, she sensed, was an 
honest pact in which both parties understood their respective places.  "I ask 
not the world, Master --," she assured him, "-- only the chance to serve you 
better -- to become a more valuable retainer."

	"In what capacity might thou serve me better than I deem thee serving 
me now?"

	"I would become a master of the whip and create from rebellious clay 
wonderful new slave girls for Marshan," Danya said excitedly.

	"A mistress of the whip, you mean."

	"Yes, Great One," she sighed.  "I still forget myself sometimes.  My 
desire is only this, Great Sultan:  Let this unworthy one become one of those 
who trains those newly-condemned at the fountain.  Let me with my own 
hands strip them of their male attire and reduce them to blushing naked houris 
with collars of submission locked about their swan-like throats."

	Moustafa grinned, intrigued by her vivid fantasy.  "You would 
especially like to train fountain girls""

	"Especially," the dancer replied, her smile sly.

	"Perhaps then you can advise me," he suggested, "as you seem to be 
interested in the subject.  Did you know that my worthless nephew was 
brought back from the fountain earlier this day?"

	"Yes, my sultan," Danya nodded.  "The whole palace was talking 
about it.  I hear that he -- she -- is very blond and beautiful."

	"Yes, he -- uh, she -- is.  I would take a personal interest in the 
punishment of Dwar, along with all his -- her -- riotous companions.  They 
brought great shame to their families, one of which is my own, and their 
punishment should be one which is spoken of for many years to come."

	"May this humble slave ask what has been done with the malefactors 
thus far?"  Danya hated the lords Dwar and Kislar.  Both had been frequent 
guests of her old master and, sometimes, they had made riotous sport with 
her.

	The sultan's words intruded in upon the dancing girl's vengeful 
thoughts.  "I have ordered them stripped and collared, and placed in cages in 
the plaza.  The cages are small and they must sleep curled up like dogs; they 
cannot stand up, except on their hands and knees.  They are not permitted to 
touch their food, but must eat it from the hand of any who proffers it.  They 
have been told that they shall remain as caged beasts on public display until 
each of them, in her own good time, has begged for the privilege of being 
placed under whip to be trained as a woman, slave, and whore."

 	"An excellent beginning, O Worthy One," Danya beamed.

	"What should we do next, after Dwar has humbly requested to 
become a slave girl?"

	"At the smallest rebellion or word of insolence, I would have her 
lovely bottom caressed by the girl-whip.  Not a rag of clothing should she be 
permitted, other than her collar, until she has first demonstrated perfect 
obedience to the lusty will of her trainers."

	"Is that the way you were treated?" asked the sultan.

	The dancer paused, then replied with a shudder:  "Yes."

	"Was it terrible?"

	"It seemed terrible then."

	"And later?"

	"It became a mix of terror and pleasure -- at least after a cup of 
Maiden's Ruin was poured down my throat."

	"Would you not also give Dwar and her wretched companions 
Maiden's Ruin?"

	Her head-shake made her midnight ringlets jiggle.  "Not at first, O 
Master.  I would wish Dwar to remain a technical virgin, tortured by the false 
hope that she might escape and restore herself in the fountain.  In the 
meantime, without first using the potion, I would make our slave amply 
familiar with the experience of male penetration.  It should first be done by 
way of the bottom, and not by a male but by an instrument." Then she added:  
"The slave pens have many tools designed for this purpose.  

	"For Lord Dwar in particular I would select one of daunting length 
and girth.  I wish to hear her cry out in pain, not merely in shame.  But I 
would also take care that she should not truly be harmed.  Instead, let her 
remain fit to give many years of pleasure to those dedicated Sodomites who 
fancy her lovely cheeks."

	"Ah, but you are wicked djinniya, my sweet one.  Tell me more."

	"I would save Dwar's and Kislar's true maidenhead for their 
purchasers to take."

	Moustafa frowned.  "This I do not favor.  The longer one delays 
placing the seal of perpetual womanhood upon a fountain girl, the greater is 
the chance she will find a way to regain her former shape and flee justice.  
Nor would I make Dwar the darlings of some great man in whose eyes she 
might find tenderness.  Better that she becomes the toy of many men, those 
who will regard her as simply the object of the moment and move on."

	"Ah, Cunning One, you would not make the rascals concubines, but 
public whores," Danya observed with ill-concealed glee.

	The sultan nodded.  "Until Dwar's womanhood is made permanent, 
he -- she -- must be kept under close guard.  -- But say, we have not by any 
means finished training my wayward nephew, have we?"

	"By no means, Sire," replied Danya.  "If I were a whip-mistress, she 
and her sluttish compatriots would not leave my domain before they were 
well-versed in all the harlot's arts, most especially the techniques of Mouth 
Magic.  First I would compel them to kneel before 'the saddle' in the training 
quarters, but then I would chain them in a room with empty chairs which are 
accessed from the street.  There, under the threat of the lash, they will serve 
oral pleasure to any man, any stranger, be he handsome, ugly, young, old -- 
any male at all who seats himself in the chair before the girl of his choice."

	"For just one day?"

	"For many days, except during the Holy Month of course, from dawn 
to dusk."

	"Will not some angry girls bite?"

	"Yes, sometimes, Wise One.  But they are given men of the street to 
service at first.  If they bite even these lowly ones, they will be terribly 
punished.  Only when they learn not to bite will they be considered ready to 
learn the finer arts of the harlot's metier."

	"I do not know whether to pity or envy any fountain girl who is 
thrown at your feet.  When exactly would you force the magic potion down 
Dwar's unwilling throat?"

	"Only when she has been made grudgingly obedient under discipline.  
By that time she will have perforce developed skills in gross harlotry, but yet 
will be sulky about performing them.  Once a fountain girl has becomes 
obedient through attrition, then only is she ready for the first element of 
Maiden's Ruin."

	"Only the first element -- the potion of need?"

	Danya nodded.  "Let Dwar and Kislar become sluts in body, but 
remain arrogant males in their mind, experiencing unmanly compulsions 
which they cannot resist, but yet which they abhor.  At last, when they have 
been driven to commit every degrading act of passion written in the Book of 
the Houri, only then should they have the second portion of Maiden's Ruin, 
the potion of the slave."

	"There is a certain charm in the way you would go about things," the 
sultan affirmed.

	"The second element will make Dwar desirous of bondage," Danya 
continued, encouraged.  "Only then, when discipline itself becomes a passion 
for her, should she be trained for the more intricate duties which her masters 
may select for her.  It was only when I reached that point myself that I was 
taught the dance," she confessed.

 	"If Dwar became like you, I should believe that he has been well 
trained," Moustafa commended her.

	Danya paused and searched her master's comely face.  "What exactly 
shall Dwar's future duties be, my liege?"

	"I have been thinking about that," he replied.  "But what of the draft 
of love, the third portion of Maiden's Ruin?"

	She tossed her head.  "Perhaps Dwar need never have it.  Why make 
her happy by permitting her to love?  Some man may desire her to love him, 
but if so it should be left to him to bring it about."

   	Moustafa smiled.  It was clear that Ben Jakhar cared little about 
fountain girls once they left the domain of the whip-masters.

	"I have been thinking of buying a brothel," he revealed, "selling all 
the girls in it, and staffing it with Dwar and his friends.  All the fees placed 
between their breasts will go to pay back the victims of their crimes."

	Danya murmured in delight.  "This is good, Master, but may a slave 
make an added suggestion?"

	"Is that not what I have been urging you to do for the past half hour?" 
he reminded her benignly.

	"Yes, my lord.  I only mean to say that I would have them trained not 
only as whores, but as belly dancers.  But let them not entertain in 
comfortable homes and palaces, or even in a public hostel where they may 
have the security of sleeping on the same tick every night.  Instead put them 
in Gypsy wagons and take them from village to village to perform day after 
day, year after year. 

	"Once they have aroused their humble audience with their beauty and 
skill, let them do the horizontal dance from dusk to dawn with any man for a 
mean asking price -- a sheep skin, a basket of melons, some small measure of 
corn, or even a calf.  And if Allah wills it, let Dwar, who has taken sacks of 
loot from those who could ill-afford it, take yet another -- a belly swollen 
with some camel-driver's son."

	"I like thy ideas well," said the monarch, "and I shall speak to my 
chief of whip-masters."

	Danya looked askance; from his words it did not sound like the sultan 
intended that she should be one of those wielding the whip.

	"Tell me, delectable Danya, were you, too, forced to drink the draft of 
love?"

	The dancing girl blenched.  "No, Master."

	"A slave and a whore you may be, but yet you still have the presence 
of mind to weave cruel fantasies.  Might not a heart aflame with passion 
induce thee to think gentler thoughts?"

	"Please, Master," she murmured.

	"Why do you fear love, my sweet?"

	She looked away.  "I fear it because she who loves without limit is 
truly a slave."

	"And you are not truly a slave?"

	"Only to the second degree."

	He stroked her hair.  "I think love has been the one thing sadly 
lacking in your life.  You have felt the cruel whip, but I think you need love 
to soften that harsh edge you still retain, my raven-tressed one.  On that day 
that you are suckling the precious babe, sired by one whom you worship 
with all the passion that the human breast may contain, will you still desire to 
wield the whip?"

	Danya's heart beat ominously, but she dared not protest.  "I am yours 
to command, Mighty One, but the woman who is gentle and loving is not 
always she who gives a man the most delight."

	"True enough," he conceded, then changed the subject.  "You have 
asked for a favor which is very easy to grant, lovely one.  But a girl who was 
a bandit and who to this day still yearns to do cruel things should not be 
permitted to so soon slip free of the just punishment that was intended for 
her."

	He settled back into his pillows.  "Moreover, one who is both female 
and beautiful should remain powerless.  Powerlessness adds to a woman's 
charms.  You are not yet ready to rule the cellars of the whip-masters, but 
should continue to display your grace and pulchritude in the frenzy of the 
dance.  And by night you be under compulsion to give your kisses freely to 
whosoever holds you."

	"I will not always be young or beautiful," Danya reminded him 
sorrowfully.  "In time no one will desire me to dance, nor to receive my 
kisses."

	He touched her forehead, then her cheek, and his fingers 
communicated both compassion and sympathy.  "Your beauty need not fade 
for some twenty years at least.  If in that time you are a good servant, 
respectful of your sisters in bondage no less than of your masters, your wish 
may be granted."

	"Thank you, Master," Danya acknowledged with disguised regret.

	"Even so," Moustafa went on, "I hope that by that time your desire 
shall be for something which shall give proof of a kindly heart.  But, if that is 
not the case, your time of penance shall anyway have been justly served, and 
Marshan shall always stand in need of a good mistress of the whip."

	She nodded, her heart brimming with sadness.  Twenty years was a 
long time to wait to attain her heart's desire.

	The sultan read her thoughts.  "Yet I have promised to give thee a gift 
here and now, and I am no liar.  What would make thee cheerful, Lotus?"

	She looked up and shook her head.  "I know not what.  I yet may 
have a sudden need at some future time, O Sultan.  May I be permitted to 
appeal to your beneficence when the occasion arises?"

	He smiled broadly.  "Of course, Fragrant One.  -- That is, if you will 
but do me one small favor now."

	"Name it, Master!"

	"Perform Mouth Magic for me.  It is a humbling act, I think, and you 
remain one who is greatly in need of such humbling --" he bent over and 
kissed her, sighing needfully, "-- my fierce-hearted caracal."  


		 Chapter Five

		 Up from Earth's centre through the seventh gate
 		 I rose, and on the throne of Saturn sate,
 		 And many knots unravel'd by the road; 
		 But not the knot of human death and fate.

 	In the dark of the evening, two very dissimilar-looking men could be 
observed lurking outside the sultan's palace.

	"It is very dangerous for you, Master Yusuf, to enter into the palace 
by night," warned Mahmood.  "In this land they throw spies into that 
accursed fountain!"

	"I have the Gem of Invisibility," he reminded his servant.  "I need but 
walk softly to go whither I will.  I did not become a wizard by refusing to 
dare great hazards."

	"How shall you find Ali?  The palace is huge!"

	The sorcerer frowned.  "That is a problem which has occurred to me, 
also."

 	Just then, a manservant in a fine coat stepped through the great doors 
of the palace.  He looked like one who held some rank and responsibility.  
Yusuf, inspired, hailed him amiably.

	"Good man!  They say the noble Prince Ali of Damascus visits the 
palace tonight.  Would you convey to him a gift of mine?"

	The servant eyed the stranger circumspectly.  "What have I to gain if I 
do?" he asked.

	A greedy thrall, thought Yusuf, but in this he was reassured.  A man 
who takes a bribe does not talk about it afterwards, but God save the 
conspirator from the conscience of an honest man! he thought.  The wizard 
plucked a small purse out of the folds of his burnoose and held it out.  You 
have this to gain, faithful steward!  I trust it is large enough to fit so small a 
favor."

	The servant took it, felt its heft, then smiled.  "Thank you, Lord."

	"Excellent!" commented the crafty magician as he drew a jeweled 
dagger from his belt.  "Tell Ali that this token comes from one who admires 
his great kingdom greatly, one who has heard many stories celebrating the 
benevolence of his pious father."

	"What name shall I give?"

	"Ah, tell him Abdul of 'Baghdad' sends it!"

	The servant gave an unctuous bow and backed away.

	"What was that for -- 'Abdul'?" asked Mahmood.

	His master drew the oft-referred-to magic gem from his vast pocket, 
and before the bodyguard's wondering eyes the old man faded away.  "I will 
simply follow the greedy rogue to Ali's chamber," explained a disembodied 
voice.

	"Aye," said Mahmood with a short, soft laugh, "if he does not sell the 
dagger to some sly street vendor instead!"

	"I will slice off his ear with it, if he does!  Wait for me, faithful 
friend.  If I do not return by sun-up, go your separate way and speak well of 
me to your grandchildren!"

	That said, the invisible wizard hurried after the servant.  The warrior 
listened to his heavy footfalls and puffing breath receding to silence.  Such a 
one as Yusuf made life interesting, Mahmood appreciated.  Nor was he a bad 
master, and the Egyptian would miss the old alchemist if he saw no more of 
the man.

	A few turns, twists, and a flight of stairs brought the servant to the 
door of Ali's chamber, which he tapped upon lightly.  The transformed 
prince bade the singing-girl Katya to answer the call.

	"A gift from a friend -- one Abdul of Baghdad, young sire," the 
steward addressed the prince over the maid's head.

	Ali arose from her mattress indifferently.  "There must be a million 
Abduls in Baghdad," she grumbled.  "He would be some greedy merchant 
currying favor, I suppose."

	She reached out her hand and accepted the blade.  The servant 
couldn't help but notice what fine, tapered fingers this lad from Syria 
possessed.  Then, with a bow, the man withdrew and Katya closed the door.  
Ali simply tossed the dagger upon her mound of baggage and returned to 
bed.  Katya resumed her place and recommenced her song.

 	"With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow, 
	And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: 
	And this was all the harvest that I reap'd--
	I came like water, and like wind I go."

	Ali listened for some while, but poetry was no palliative for her 
present state of mind.  "Enough, girl!" she suddenly pronounced.  "Bring me 
a cup of mineral water!"

	Katya compliantly rose.  At just that moment the door latch clicked 
and the portal swung slowly inward, as if moved by a draft.  Katya tripped 
over to it and peered into the empty hall.  Seeing nothing there, she shrugged 
and closed it again.  While she was doing so, neither she nor the prince 
detected Yusuf's stride upon the tiles.  

	The cunning sorcerer approached the stand upon which Katya had 
been preparing Ali's drink and carefully unstopped the flask of the Maiden's 
Ruin potion and poured the magical bane into the cup.  

	Katya innocently picked up the tainted vessel and carried it to Ali 
who, without much thought, or even without much thirst, sipped the drink.  
She at once grimaced with distaste, for in sweet water the potion inevitably 
produced a stale flavor.  Ali spewed the sample back into the cup, only a few 
drops of it having flowed with her saliva down her throat.  "Your water is 
spoiled by alkali," she mumbled, which discovery added to her sour mood.

	In mere moments however, even this tiny bit of the elixir began to 
evoke a peculiar stirring within the prince.  

	Ali looked oddly at the girl, but could not relate her nubile desirability 
to the unfamiliar impulses she was suddenly feeling.  The prince decided that 
she wanted to be alone.  "I wish to go to sleep," she lied.  "You are 
dismissed!"

	This cowled youth had been consistently cold with her, and his whole 
manner had made Katya uneasy.  It was therefore without regret that she did 
her obeisant leave-taking and exited the chamber.  In her haste, the singing-
slave did not hear Yusuf's clumsy stride behind her.  The sorcerer, hopeful 
that the potion was working its intended effect upon the prince, decided to 
linger in the palace until he was absolutely certain that Ali's maidenhead was 
lost.  Only because he was gravely aware of his limitations in respect to the 
rites of Priapus, old Yusuf decided to refrain from offering himself up for 
that purpose.

	Once Katya was gone, Ali leaned back upon the pillow, trying to 
ignore the sensations presently bedeviling her.  But, try as she might, she 
was unable to banish them.  No matter how hard she tried to force herself to 
think of something else, she found she could think of nothing but.

  	Restless, Ali got up and paced back and forth.  When she came in 
front of the mirror, she frowned at the masked image that it cast back.  Only 
now did she realize how ridiculous a cowl worn indoors made her look.  She 
loosened its ties, shrugged it down, and looked at her bare face -- a feat 
which she had but rarely performed during the last few months.  

	Her mood now was much different from that in earlier days.  How it 
astonished her to think that this was her own face.  The girl in the mirror 
looked like Ayeesha, and how sublimely beautiful was Ayeesha.

	Ali, glancing over her shoulder to make sure that she was alone, 
dropped the cowled garment and opened the large silver buttons of her shirt, 
laying her breasts bare to the glass.  She looked at them for a long moment, 
and then could not help but touch them with halting fingers.  The contact 
made her shiver, so sensitive was the flesh.  Then, irrationally, she glanced 
back to reaffirm her privacy, and this allowed her the confidence to undo her 
sash and drop her black pantaloons.  These fell in a silken heap about her 
ankles; her shirttails hung down to make her a very short skirt.  

	She frowned as she regarded herself, realizing at long last how lovely 
these legs were; surely, no dancing girl had ever sported a better pair.  Was 
that a good thing, or was it something to be ashamed of?  Why was it so 
difficult to see the answer?  The question was so simple.  Of course it was 
shameful!  How could it be otherwise?

	So, feeling badly about her body once more, she closed her eyes.  
What had begun as an act of self-examination had become like a guilty spying 
upon her own sister.

	Ali adjusted her disarray with shaking fingers, and it was well that 
she did, for suddenly someone called her name from the hall.

	"One moment," Ali replied as she struggled to finish her dressing.  
She had recognized the speaker was Kerboga, the Sudanese who was captain 
of her guard.  When she believed herself presentable, she called, "Enter, 
Captain!"

	The armored African admitted himself.  Ali, standing behind the door, 
realized belatedly that her face was still bare.  In all these months she had 
never let one of her guards look upon her transformed visage, though they 
had known from the outset about her basic plight.  Consequently, the prince 
did not look the man's way, but instead tried with fingers made clumsy with 
haste to raise her snarled cowl. 

	"My prince," addressed the officer, "what shall be your orders for the 
morrow?  I would ask Lord Hassan, but I believe he is -- presently 
occupied."

	Ali thought about the matter of orders, but found that she was far 
more preoccupied imagining how Hassan was occupied.  So she replied:  
"None."

	"My prince?"

	"I mean, I am not sure.  Let me decide at dawn.  Come back then."

	"As you wish, Your Grace."

	Then, as her Captain withdrew, Ali remembered that she had 
promised the sultan to accompany his hunting party.  For this she would 
require the escort of a few of her men, and so she hurried to the door.

	"Captain!  Wait!  I would --"

	She swung the portal open and came face to face with the tall, virile 
figure of a young man.  A shudder, like some chill wind, coursed through 
her maiden body.  As suddenly, it became like a warm flush.  Dazed, Ali 
reeled as if about to fall.  

	"Ali," blurted Hassan, catching hold of his friend.  "Are you all 
right?"

	 Ali quickly steadied herself, but she still felt oddly light-headed.  
Glancing at Hassan again, she felt drawn to him as to a lodestone.  Only with 
the exercise of will did she restrain herself from reaching out to touch him.

	"I-I thought you went to your quarters -- and not alone," stammered 
the prince.  She now found herself pushing her cowl down once more.

	"The girl is still there," Hassan explained, "but she is not so diverting 
as I had hoped.  It is my fault, not hers.  My mind is vexed.  That quarrel we 
had stands in the way of pleasure as much as it does sleep.  May I come in?"

	"Ah, yes!  Please!" The way Ali was yammering caused her friend to 
wonder whether something had not befallen her since they had last been 
together.

	"Ali, are -- you well?"

	"Why do you ask?"

	"You are perspiring, though the night breeze is a cool one."

	"I am very w-well," she stammered, "and -- and am glad that you 
came by.  You need not apologize -- really.  The quarrel was my fault 
entirely."

	"I would not say that.  I --"  

	"Can you stay long enough to share a cup?" she interrupted with a 
crooked smile.

	Hassan shook his head.  "I need to rest if we are going lion-hunting 
tomorrow morning.  I only wanted to put the argument behind us."

	Ali bit her lip, and perplexity was writ large upon her face.  "I don't 
know that I will go hunting tomorrow."

	"My prince?"

	"I've lost my taste for lion-hunting of a sudden, Hassan.  Perhaps we 
should simply ride out into the plains tomorrow morning."

	"The sultan would scarcely like to do that!"

	"I mean we two would go alone."

	"Just ride?" he asked, puzzled.  "We have ridden a thousand miles 
already."

	Ali shrugged.  "Our eyes were closed.  We have hardly once taken 
time to appreciate the simple beauties of the desert.  And when did we ever 
stand shoulder to shoulder to watch the sun rise?"

	The image she conjured, for some reason which he didn't fathom, 
made Hassan very ill-at-ease.  "Well, if you'd like to," he began hesitantly.  
"I -- I am glad that you are being more reasonable about this hunting 
business.  There will be time enough for roughhousing and dangerous sport 
later, when you are a man again.  But, hunting or no, if we are going to rise 
before dawn, we will both need our sleep."  

	He backed away, wanting to be gone, but trying not to display a 
needless haste.  What put him even more on edge was the fact that he was 
entirely unable to explain even to himself why he had the overriding need to 
depart so soon.  "Goodnight -- my friend."

	For some reason, the last thing the prince wanted was for Hassan to 
leave her.  "Wait, there's no need of haste --"

	She ran clumsily for a flask of wine behind her and the toe of her boot 
caught the leg of an incense-burner.  Hassan's arms shout out instantly and 
again caught her before she fell.

	"You must be as tired as I," the warrior said with a nervous grin.  
"You are falling all over yourself.  Get some rest, Ali, and I will see you in 
the morning!"

	He exited swiftly, not looking back.  Frustrated, Ali flopped belly-
first upon the bed and beat at it with her fists.  After a few minutes of futile 
demonstration, she closed her eyes.  For some reason, the appearance of 
Hassan had made her objectless cravings feel twice as strong.  She had 
behaved very foolishly, very flightily around Hassan, but why?  And this 
yearning -- what did she yearn for?  To her dismay, all her cravings suddenly 
seemed to focus upon the image of Hassan.  She realized that she wanted to 
follow him back to his room?  Why?  She had no answers to give.  She 
covered her head with her pillow and longed for sleep, on the chance that she 
could rise in the morning clear-headed.

		#

	"Prince Ali --?!" Katya cried, scurrying back into the bed chamber.  
"What is it?  Why do you cry out so?"

	Ali awoke with a start.  Dully, she realized that she had been crying 
out in a dream -- and crying out in her sleep, also.  And this cry had brought 
Katya running.

	But bleary and still half-asleep, Ali was trying to remember a dream 
which was rapidly fading and leaving behind mere rags of random images.  
There had been a man from the desert, she recalled.  He had seized her, 
carried her away, stripped the male clothing from her body --

	Belatedly Ali realized that the singing-girl was staring at her face -- 
seeing her without her disguise.  The prince threw a corner of the sheet over 
her face.

	It was too late.  "Sire," the maid said with an incredulous gasp, "-- 
you are no prince.  You are -- you are a maiden dressed up as a man!  Why?" 

	Ali knew she that was caught and at the moment lacked the heart for 
weaving any cunning lie to explain the circumstances.  "I will tell you," she 
murmured reluctantly, "but I beg you tell no one else.  My secret is a disgrace 
to my family."

	Katya regarded the maid doubtfully.  The girl might have refused to 
hear what might be a dangerous secret, but by nature she was of a curious 
bent.

	"If you need a friend, my -- my princess, I will be one," she offered 
coaxingly, somehow touched by the misery then so evident in the imposter's 
expression.

	Ali told the story, briefly but truthfully, ending it with, "So the 
sorcerers who serve my father told me to come to Marshan and bathe in its 
fountain.  It is supposed to wash away the curse.  From what I have learned 
since my arrival, that would seem to be true."

 	To Katya, this confession sounded plausible and a little sad.

	"Why have you not gone to the fountain already, my prince?" 

	Ali shook her head dolefully.  "I did not want to go unless I could go 
in secret.  But for some reason, the going does not seem as important as it 
once did."

	"Why is that?" Katya asked concernedly.

	"It is strange.  I think it has something to do with my friend Hassan."

	Katya squeaked in inspiration.  "It happens sometimes to those who 
are washed by the fountain!"

	"What happens?" asked Ali, glancing up at the singing-girl.

	"You have fallen in love with the handsome lord!"  

	Katya's suggestion took Ali aback.  She tried to frown reprovingly, 
but her features managed to form only a cast of guilt.

	The servant jabbered on excitedly:  "You have been a woman for 
many weeks, Prince Ali, and it has changed your heart."

	"It cannot be!"

	"It can!  You have traveled so long in the company of the charming 
Lord Hassan that now you love him.  Say it is true!"

	Ali was absolutely staggered by the suggestion.  "Love?  I have 
always loved him as a friend, comrade, brother --"

	Katya smiled.  "But now your heart tells you that there is yet another 
way to love him -- the best way of all.  Think, Prince Ali, this passion may 
be the will of Allah.  But be warned - if you go to Lord Hassan and do all that 
your heart dictates, you may not be able to take your accustomed form 
again."

	Ali let herself fall back across the bed.  Now indeed she was 
beginning to understand the end to which her impulses seemed determined to 
drive her.  "What should I do?"

	The girl sat beside Ali and gave her a hug.  "It is hard being a woman 
in love.  But I am sure he loves you, too.  How could he not?"  She touched 
Ali's cheek.  "You are so lovely."

	"He can't.  I am not lovely!  I am unnatural!  I am loathsome!"

	"Loathsome, sweet princess?  Not in Marshan.  You are beauty 
incarnate, even in those silly garments.  Surely Lord Hassan believes so, 
too."

	"You called me a princess!" Ali noted incredulously.

	The servant girl returned a sympathetic glance.  "If you go to Lord 
Hassan, you will truly become a princess.  Look in the mirror, Master.  What 
do you see?  Has Allah not brought you to this land in order to place a terrible 
choice before you?"

	"All choices are Allah's," Ali reminded her dejectedly.  "Who can 
know the will of the All-Wise?"

	"Before you do something foolish, dear Master, would it not be wise 
to discover the truth?  If you are by nature a woman who yearns to love a 
man, is that not proof of what course Allah has set before you?"

	"Only a man can take a throne!"

	Katya pressed Ali's hands betwixt her own.  "Will a throne make you 
happy?  Will it make Allah any the happier for you?  They say the only throne 
a woman needs is the bed of her true love, the only scepter she can use is his 
mighty sword of passion.  And the only subjects she requires are the children 
which her consummation quickens within her womb.  Does not your heart 
persuade you that these are your needs also, Princess?

	Ali cast her glance toward ceiling.  Hassan?  Passion?  Children?  
This conversation was going much too swiftly for her to follow.

	"I know why you are afraid," Katya pronounced wisely.  "All your 
life you have been a boy, and even after you assumed a woman's shape, you 
continued to live as one.  How can you hope to understand the inner cries 
you are now hearing?"

	"Women are inferior to men!  The lives they live are deplorable!"

	"My life is not deplorable, and perhaps deep in your heart you, too, 
would like to live a life like mine.  Would it not be sweet to put away your 
pride and kneel at the foot of a man, your forehead resting humbly upon his 
knee, and knowing in your soul that you are less than he is, that you exist for 
him to command?"

	"No!  I would not!" said Ali with a wild shake of her head.

	"I know whereof I speak, O Prince.  Are all kings happy?  Are all 
slaves sad?"

	"I know nothing of slaves," Ali replied with a moment's reflection, 
"but I know that my father the emir is often far from happy."

	Katya kissed her in sympathy.  "What Allah intends must come to 
pass.  In your heart of hearts, you may truly be a mighty king, and, if so, 
God shall guide you unerringly to a manly throne.  Or you may instead be 
only a lissome maiden who longs for love.  If the latter be true, He will lead 
you along that path instead."

	"This confusion of mind is like torture!"

	"Allah desires that we learn and grow wise.  Let us use this night to 
discover your true nature, O Prince.  Then you will know whether you 
should go to the fountain, or instead go to the bed of Lord Hassan."

	"Me with Hassan?  Never!"  Her face felt hot as she tried to reconcile 
her intellect with her emotions.

	"I will call my good friend Danya!" suggested Katya pertly.  "She is 
more clever than I.  Also, she was born a man, just like you were.  She will 
understand your sad dilemma, as I may never hope to.  May I fetch her?"

	"I don't want anyone else to know!"

	"One more person to commiserate cannot hurt you.  This is Marshan; 
we live with these matters every day," the singing-girl wheedled, her voice 
sweet and pleading.

	"Perhaps," Ali conceded reluctantly.

		#

	Ali had given her halting consent and Katya dashed off, but now she 
felt a waxing alarm.  Just exactly what had she agreed to subject herself to?  

	Before Ali had completely analyzed the conversation, Katya stole 
back into the room carrying a basket.  This contained, as far as the prince 
could see, garments.  The young woman who followed her, Danya 
presumably, was the same belly dancer who had entertained before the sultan 
-- Ben Jakhar the bandit.  Ali shrunk inwardly.  What sort of love-lorn 
advisor could one like her make?

	Danya did obeisance, then beheld the transformed prince with a 
wondering gaze.  Ali glanced away captiously.  She did not want to be 
looked at, which was the reason why she had gone disguised.

	"Your clothes tell me you are Prince Ali indeed," said the dancing 
girl, "but nothing else would declare you so.  This is not unusual in Marshan, 
but are you, truly, a maid of the fountain, or does Katya mislead me in 
mischief?"

	"This is a mistake," Ali stated nervously.  "I should not --"

	But Katya scurried up just then and took her hand.  "You are 
frightened, Princess.  That is natural.  But think of the dashing Lord Hassan.  
Would it not be sweet to be crushed in his arms, your face covered by his 
kisses?"  She bent to pluck a garment from the basket.  "--See, I have 
brought these things from the harem for you to wear."

	Ali startled.  "Me?  Wear these?"  She would die of mortification!

	"This morning you arose a boy, Prince Ali," teased Danya merrily.  
"Would it not be interesting to go to bed this night as a harem girl-- even if it 
is for only this one night of your life?"

	Those words should have panicked Ali, but they resonated strangely 
with those indefinable feelings that she was experiencing.  

	"Have you bathed, Princess?" Danya asked.

	Ali frowned.  "Before the feast."

	She nodded.  "That will do, as we have little time.  We must hurry, O 
Prince; there is much to do before Lord Hassan grows too tired to receive a 
lady."

	"Wait!  I barely spoke of the matter with Katya.  I fear she has 
assumed too much," Ali protested.  "I cannot do this!  I dare not.  I would 
destroy our friendship if I appeared before Hassan in these foolish woman-
things."

	"That is why you are fortunate Katya sought me out, Prince Ali," 
Danya replied with confidence.  "I have the perfect plan to overcome such a 
small difficulty.  Lord Hassan will never know it is you.  He shall be 
blindfolded and believe that you are another person.  If all goes well, you 
may stay with him, if not, you may leave and he will never be the wiser."

	Ali looked askance at the belly dancer.

	Danya explained her idea in full and Ali, though incredulous, at least 
realized some respect for her devious turn of mind.

	"Let us do her face first," suggested Katya.

	Danya nodded eagerly and guided Ali to a chair.  "Sit, my princess -- 
I mean, my prince.  I shall make you a lord's delight."

	"I haven't agreed to any of this," Ali declared.

	"When you see what you look like, you will agree to all things," 
Katya assured her.

	Danya worked quickly and with great skill, outlining Ali's eyes with 
night-black kohl, applying powder and rouge to her cheeks.  The prince's 
lips she painted a soft red, and then arranged her black hair into glossy flows.  
To complete the effect, the Damascene's nails, both of hands and feet, were 
manicured -- albeit simply due to their need for haste.  At last, these, too, 
were painted to match Ali's lips.

	Even Katya had not expected such a miracle to emerge from Danya's 
cosmetic art and she clapped delightedly when her sister of the chain had 
completed her delicate chore.

	"Take a look in the mirror, Princess Ali," urged the singing-girl.

	Doubtfully, Ali squirmed about and faced up to her reflected image.  
She gasped.  It was no face she would ever have recognized, not even as 
Ayeesha's.  Ayeesha was a princess; this was the face of a concubine or belly 
dancer.

	"I cannot do this!" she muttered, seeking to rise.

	Katya gently pressed her back down.  "Do not fear, Princess.  Your 
face is lovely!"  She glanced over her shoulder.  "What is next, Danya?"

	"Her male attire must not leave this room with her.  "My prince, may 
I assist you in disrobing?" Danya asked.

	Danya took the absence of refusal for assent and, trembling with 
excitement, set about her task.  She was realizing one of her fantasies -- that 
of stripping a raw fountain girl and putting her in the raiment of a female 
slave.  Surely Allah was being kind to her this night.

	The dancing girl accordingly undid the hooks of the royal heir's shirt, 
then drew it off.  Ali could not help but cover her breasts with her hands 
when her torso was laid bare.  Danya next took away the prince's shoes and 
pantaloons, rendering her naked.

	Katya's constant coaxing persuaded Ali to remain seated in place 
while Danya applied fragrant powder to her bosom with a soft patch of fleece 
-- an application which felt unbearably ticklish upon her breasts and nipples.  
Yet the sensation was not at all unpleasant, even if the intimacy of the 
procedure heated her cheeks.  

	Katya now bent down close and again kissed the prince.  "You seem 
to be so shy as a girl.  Were you also shy as a man?"

	"No!" Ali exclaimed indignantly.  "I killed a score of boars with my 
spear.  I've killed warriors in battle!"

	"It is well you are not shy," the former Ben Jakhar put in, 
uninterested in hearing of another man's deeds of valor.  "A slave girl is not 
permitted modesty."

	Ali glanced up sourly.  "I am no slave!"

	"Certainly not, but you must impersonate one tonight, and must do so 
well enough as to not make Lord Hassan suspicious.  Is that not what you 
want?  Would you rather send Katya and me away?"

	"Oh, do not, my prince!" Katya pleaded.  "Though you may become 
an emir, you may be forever sad and lonely for wondering whether you 
might have been happier otherwise.  At least taste both cups of wine set 
before you and compare the bouquet."

	Ali frowned, not in anger, but under the stress of an intense inner 
conflict.

	"You are beautiful, mistress," Danya assured her as she dabbed 
rosewater over Ali's ticklish flesh with a bit of fleece.  "How can you doubt 
that Lord Hassan will love you?"

	"But I do not want him to love me.  I mean, I am sure that he could 
not love me.  What I feel for him is -- I mean --"

	"If you love him, dear princess, you shall be able to make him love 
you," Katya promised.

	"This wing of the palace is not private enough to do what must be 
done," Danya confided to Ali.  "We may be looked in upon by servants or by 
your own guards.  I know of a place much more private than this one, and at 
this hour there shall be no one about."

	"What place?"

	"The slave-training room."

	Ali leaped to her feet.  "Are you having sport with me?!"

	"Not at all."  Without more explanation, Danya took one of the 
remaining items out of the basket -- an item that Ali beheld in consternation.  
It was a slave collar, a narrow black leather band studden with blue-white 
rhinestones.

	"Only slaves may go about the palace unnoted at this time of the 
evening," Danya assured the prince.  "Let me place this about your neck -- as 
a disguise only."  

	"No!" snarled Ali.  "It is demeaning!"

	"If you say 'no,' sire," Danya said with lowered head, "we know not 
how to serve you.  If the prince has no more need of us, Katya, we unworthy 
ones must beg to take our leave."

	"What is it that you wish to accomplish?" the prince inquired, almost 
as reluctant to abort this process as to continue it.

	"We must show you how to behave as the sort of woman that a noble 
lord most usually desires," Danya explained with apparent earnestness.

	"And if I do not like your manner of instruction?"

	"Then you may return here immediately.  Unless --"

	"Unless what?"

	"Unless you give us orders not to permit your release until a certain 
length of time has passed."

	"Why should I do that?"

	"Because it takes great courage to stand up to rigors of a slave girl's 
training.  Unless you are under some self-imposed restraint, you may not 
have the fortitude to continue it for more than a few minutes."

	"I am soldier-trained!  I am monarch-trained."

	"And I was a bandit, a strong fighter in my own right.  Yet I have 
learned that to be a slave girl one requires great courage and an unbending 
strength of purpose."

	"I fear nothing, least of all what two house slaves could do, unless 
your purpose is to cut me with knives, burn me with irons, or put out my 
eyes or tongue."

	"Do you think we are mad, O Prince?  We wish you no harm.  But it 
is well-attested that a disobedient girl never does learn.  And such an uncouth 
one could not deceive Lord Hassan, not even blindfolded."

	Ali was no fool.  Perhaps Katya was as naive as she appeared, but 
this Danya was different; there was an evident toughness and cleverness to 
her mettle.  That she would savor having a prince of the blood under her 
switch Ali did not doubt.  But this, strangely enough, did not daunt the heir 
of Damascus overmuch.  To her way of thinking, the mortification of this 
woman-flesh which held her prisoner might have been exactly what she 
needed.  If left to her own devices, Ali was not at all certain that she could 
long resist going to Hassan and, once there, saying or doing something 
foolish.

	If these rascally slave girls only succeeded in showing her how 
intolerable was a woman's life, that would be all to the good.  Purged of her 
foolery, she could go to the fountain in the morning and no one would ever 
have to know that she had been tempted to do otherwise.

	"No one will see us?" Ali queried doubtfully.

	"No one!" Danya promised her.  She stepped behind the prince with 
the collar in her hands.  "May I, Your Grace?"  The prince again said 
nothing, and so she boldly cinctured the circlet snugly about Ali's neck.  The 
prince reached up to touch its bejeweled surface, then regarded herself in the 
mirror, blinking in disbelief.  Naked, painted, collared, she looked like a girl 
on a public slave block.  Psychologically, the effect put her at a disadvantage, 
making her feel strangely vulnerable, a little lest apt to assert herself.

	Katya now picked some clothing from the basket, and Ali could see 
that it was a simple, mostly-red harem costume -- an embroidered girdle, a 
skirt of veils, and a midriff-baring halter. 

	"The night travels on fleet wings," the dancing-slave cautioned her 
companions.  "The princess must not be cheated of her chance to experience a 
way that she has never known before."  


		Chapter Six

 		  Of threats of Hell and hopes of Paradise!
  		  One thing at least is certain -- this life flies;
  		  One thing is certain, and the rest is lies;
  		  The flower that once has blown forever dies.

 	The two slave-maids led the disguised Ali along unfamiliar passages.  
The lamp which Katya carried was meant for the benighted slave quarters, 
whose own lamps would be snuffed out at this hour.  Suddenly a powerful 
striding broke the erstwhile silence.

	"A guard!" whispered Danya.  "Do as we do, Princess."

	A big man advanced out of the shadowy distance dressed in the 
accouterments of a palace guard.  

	The slave girls bent low.

	"What are you maids up to?" the big man demanded. 

	"We are being sent to attend the newcomers from the West, O Master.  
The sultan has showered great favor upon them."

	His white teeth flashed through the dense hair of his face.  "A great 
favor indeed!  He sends them three of the fairest flowers from his garden!  I 
do not doubt that these strangers shall be well-attended indeed!"  He then 
regarded Ali with particular interest.  "But who is this?" 

	Ali glanced downward, acutely uncomfortable in her disguise.

	The guard put his fingertips under her chin to make her look at him.

	"I have not seen this one before.  What do they call you, wench?"

	Ali had no name in mind to give.

	"Have you no name at all?"

	"Ay -- Ayeesha," whispered the transformed prince.

	"Ayeesha?  A pretty name!  Are you new in the palace?"

	"Yes -- Master."

	He arched his thick brows suspiciously.  "Are you a new-trained 
fountain girl?"

	"She is," Danya put in, making Ali wince to have her secret exposed.

	The guard smiled.  "Ah!  And what crime did you commit, my 
lovely?"

	"Do not delay us, Warrior," Danya pleaded.  "We might be 
whipped."

	"All beautiful women should be whipped now and then, and you 
fountain girls need more whipping than most, Ben Jakhar."  He shifted back 
toward Ali, but only to give a hollow sigh.  "I cannot tarry with the likes of 
you three!  Be on your way and serve our noble visitors well!"

	The guard sauntered on his way, pleased with himself for having 
stolen a moment with beautiful women.  The girls waited until his stride had 
faded to silence, then bustled down the dimly-lit corridor, where they found 
the stairs they sought, and descended to the cellars.

	"Thank Allah that the guard was so smitten by Ayeesha that he failed 
to ask why I carried a lamp to follow halls which were already well-lighted," 
sighed Katya.

	"You need not call me Ayeesha now that the guard is gone!" Ali stated 
acerbically.

	"You gave yourself that name, O Prince.  And it fits you well," said 
Danya.

	"It is my sister's name."

	"I see," nodded the singing-girl.  "Is she as lovely as you are?"

	"She -- she looks exactly like me."

	Katya and Danya exchanged a glance.

	"Let us not tarry," whispered Ali.

	The trio met no one else before they reached the remote region of the 
dungeons reserved for slave-training.  The door was not locked, and so the 
girls entered.  Katya took care to cover the crack with a cloth before using her 
flame to light the lamps on the periphery of the room.

	Ali now looked the chamber about with renewed misgivings.  It was a 
harsh, barely-finished quarters, its stony starkness well-calculated to 
intimidate the captives brought here.  The simple furnishings -- a couple of 
rough divans, some chairs, and some other pieces of equipment -- were 
suitable to a prison.  And, more ominous still, many straps and restraints 
were in evidence. 

	Danya was exploring the room also.  She came to stand before a tall 
mirror, before which, at about the level of her hips, there dangled a small 
gem, apparently attached by fishing line to the beam above.  Unlike Ali, she 
appeared to understand what the odd arrangement was for.

	The dancing girl next crossed the room and picked up a sand-clock.  
This she conveyed to the table that stood next to the prince.

	"What is this?" Ali asked, her mouth dry.

	"We have the gravest doubts that we can teach a man, especially a 
prince," admitted the dancing girl.

	"Then why did you bring me here?"

	"We believe we may teach a woman and a slave much."

	"I don't understand," Ali stated with intense suspicion.

	"Then I ask you this:  Would a prince willingly submit himself to 
chaining, to switching, even if it were necessary to impress a needed lesson?"

	"No, I could not submit to such an insult," the prince admitted with 
only slight hesitation.

	"These sands take two hours to run out," explained Danya.  "That is 
the span of a normal training session for a fountain girl.  It is also all the time 
we dare spare -- that is, all we dare spare if you truly wish to meet Hassan 
tonight -- before you go to the fountain."

	Ali was unsure that that was her true wish at all.  "What is your 
point?"

	"We have great reason to fear you."

	Ali blinked.  "Fear me?"

	"Yes," Danya nodded gravely.  "If you should deem yourself insulted 
tonight, you need only ask our master, the sultan, to have us torn us to pieces 
between wild horses, or subjected to lingering torture even more terrible.  
That is a wicked and undeserved fate for humble servants who only wished 
to help you attain self-discovery."

	"I would not do that!" Ali protested truthfully.  So far she had been so 
concentrated upon her own reasons to be mistrustful that she had entirely 
overlooked the danger that her own changeableness might pose for these two 
women.

	"So you say, Master.  But free persons may change their mind 
without penalty.  That is the joy of being free.  Believe me, Your Grace, I 
know the difference."

	"You were once a bandit, or so I hear."

	"That is true.  And you were once a prince.  We must accept the 
judgement of Allah and go on from there."

	"Or the judgment of Shaitan," Ali murmured introspectively.

	"If we cleave to Allah's grace, Shaitan has no power over us.  And 
what we receive from the Merciful's hands is only what we deserve," said 
Danya.  Then lowering her head, she whispered, "God is great."

	"Well, God is great, yes," muttered Ali, "but I am not a capricious 
scoundrel either.  I will swear an oath not to seek redress for any indignity 
done to me this night, short of some outrageous cruelty, such as permanent 
scarring or crippling, of course!"

	Danya smiled.  "That would be helpful, O Glorious Prince, but 
perhaps not sufficient."

	"Not sufficient?" Ali echoed, exasperated.  "What else do you require 
if the word of a prince counts for nothing?"

	"Bear with us, Prince Ali.  Our life and limb are at stake.  Many who 
are well born in Marshan tell lies to slaves.  Is it so different in Damascus?"  
Ali's expression told all, so Danya dared to continue:  "I have a plan to 
suggest.  May I explain it, Heir of Damascus?"

	"Yes, do."

	Danya took a deep breath.  "You are empowered to dispense justice in 
your own land, are you not, Prince Ali?"

	"Of course, I must defer to my father the emir in matters of appeal."

	"But among your own people in this foreign land, your power is 
absolute."

	"It is absolute," she nodded.  "I could order any one of my 
companions to strike off the head of any other."

	"In your land, is a woman ever condemned to slavery?"

	Ali frowned searchingly.  "Oftentimes.  For harlotry, thieving, 
blasphemy, for many reasons.  My father has always preferred to spare a 
woman's life, if possible -- and most of all is she is beautiful."

	"Your father is wise, O Scion of Damascus.  Tell me, Prince, is a 
person sometimes sentenced to slavery for only a certain period of time, and 
then restored to his goods and dignity?"

	Ali shrugged.  "We have penal servitude for a man to work out his 
fines or debts for a certain period of time, such as in the quarries.  He will 
labor under the lash like a true slave, though we do not consider that this 
sentence carries the same stigma.  But there is no stricture that I have heard of 
which prohibits the law from imposing a temporary status of slavery.  Nor 
can I believe that such a sentence would offend either the mighty or the 
lowly, though the master involved may resent losing his slave."

	"All this is good to hear," nodded Danya.  "Listen to what this 
humble servant proposes, Great Prince.  For two hours only, hours whose 
passage we may watch passing by the shifting sands of this clock that you 
shall place into motion yourself, you shall sentence yourself to true slavery.  
Moreover, you shall nominate Katya and myself as your whip-masters.  That 
is, we shall be charged to train you in the basic deportment of the female 
slave."

	Dumbfounded, Ali regarded Danya with a scowl.

	Danya hurriedly explained her reasoning.  "Unless you are a slave, 
we do not dare use any means of discipline.  You may refuse to do any 
undignified thing, and we shall not dare to do so much as to speak harshly to 
you."

	The sultan's transformed son analyzed her argument.  These could be 
a very bad two hours, she understood.  Girls could be cunning and cruel 
creatures.  Yet, she was a war-leader who had not feared to clash with 
Greeks, Crusaders, and the renegades of the desert, though capture by the 
latter would have meant being cut to pieces and fed to the ants.

	"What sort of discipline do you speak?"

	"Modest chastisement there may be, O Prince.  Some blows of the 
girl-whip, probably not even twenty shall be needed in two hours time.  
Some brief chaining should be expected, perhaps some spanking.  You may 
be held and tickled," she added, remembering Ali's extreme reaction when 
she had applied the fleece to her flesh.

	"What discipline is that?" Ali scoffed.  Slave girls were weak indeed 
if this was what they feared to undergo.

	"It is not the degree of pain which teaches," Danya explained, "but the 
understanding that you are truly in another's power.  If you do not undergo at 
least a small ordeal which challenges you, how may you wisely choose 
between a life you have known, and one you cannot even imagine?  Be 
assured that you shall leave this room two hours hence as fit, blemishless, 
and beautiful, as you are now.  Only, we think, you shall be wiser in the 
ways of the world."    

	Ali still searched her beautiful face, but the dancer smiled 
reassuringly:  "Cut off my head two hours from now, Heir of Damascus, if I 
play thee false, or ask the sultan to do it for you.  I only ask that you show 
mercy to Katya, even if I receive none."

	More than her words of assurance, Danya's apparent protectiveness 
toward the singing-girl assuaged Ali's suspicions regarding the belly dancer 
with the spirit of a mountain bandit.

	"That is all I can say on the subject, O Prince," Danya concluded.  
"Do you wish to return to your bed now, Your Grace?  Or would you rather 
seek such knowledge as fortune has seen fit to spare you thus far?"

	"Oh, Your Grace," pleaded Katya, "do not fear."

	Ali, not liking to be thought timid, considered her options.  She could 
abort this adventure, but that would not extinguish the terrible yearning in her 
loins, the need to be held and pressed between strong arms.  At least if she 
were confined here, that would be two hours of delay and offered the 
possibly of making her so furious at her womanhood that she could refrain 
from giving in to temptation afterwards.  There seemed to be other urges 
impelling her on also, but she could not articulate them, even in her own 
mind.

	"I can easily endure two hours what a mere girl endures, come what 
may," Ali finally said, fully expecting to have a bad, though hopefully not 
fatal, time of it.  And she wanted it to be bad.  How else might she chill the 
heat inside her?

	Katya kissed her delightedly, while Danya took care of the 
formalities.  The latter accepted the prince's oath and suggested the language 
of her commitment to temporary slavery.

	"I, Ali Ibn Haroon," the prince began to recite, "for wicked and lewd 
thoughts, for desires which are unseemly, am hereby sentenced to forfeit, for 
two hours time, all rights as a free man, and be instead recognized as a 
woman and a slave.  As chattel I shall be turned over to those here present, 
who are enjoined to fulfill the role of whip-mistresses, to the end of 
instructing me in such arts as we have hitherto agreed to.  As I turn this 
clock, may the sentence be carried out."

	Ali turned over the clock.

	She was a slave girl.

	Ali looked up at her companions, almost as if expecting them to fall 
upon her with blows and kicks immediately.

	Katya looked to Danya, who from the beginning had appeared to be 
the natural leader of the pair, though they had not agreed to that beforehand.

	Ali saw that almost at once each of them did seem to set their bodies 
with a slightly different bearing.  A loss of anxiety mirrored in their eyes, 
too.  For one thing, they had not been permitted, as slaves, to look at a free 
person with anything like the boldness that they were now permitting 
themselves.  Ali wondered if her own bearing and glance had changed.  She 
certainly felt a little smaller, a little more anxious.

	"We shall call you Ayeesha," said Danya, breaking the silence, "or 
Pretty Slave sometimes, or anything that comes to mind."

	Ali took an uncertain breath and listened quietly.

 	"When you are given an order, Pretty Slave," Danya clarified, "you 
must reply 'Yes, Mistress.'  In fact, you should call me 'Master' or even 
'Master Jakhar,' and address Katya as 'Mistress' or 'Mistress Katya.'  Is that 
understood?"

	Ali nodded, then belatedly added, "Yes, Master.  Yes, Mistress."

	Danya gave an nod, satisfied.  "Very well, Slave, but guard against 
the insolence of the eyes.  There are certain modes of behavior which shows 
respect to those around you, and which you must assume.  You know well 
what I mean."

	Ali shifted, despite her determination to be stolid.  She did indeed 
know, in a general way, what was expected of a slave girl in respect to 
deportment, but being told that she must imitate such behavior herself felt 
very undignified.

	Danya had gone to a wall-array where many punishment devices 
hung.  Without a moment's hesitation, she took down what was known to 
slave-trainers as a "girl-whip."   A specialized tool, it was fashioned of soft 
material and felt very supple and elastic in one's grasp.  The blow of it was 
calculated to sting a maid like the fires of Shaitan, but not to mar her flesh.  

	Danya shivered, remembering how, in a room like this one, whips 
like the one she now held had oftentimes been applied to her shrinking body -
- usually across the buttocks.  The lessons did not cease until she had learned 
to anticipate the protean whims of her whip-masters.  Until, that is, she had 
become a slave in nature as well as in name.  But no slave girl was ever 
entirely free of the shadow of the girl-whip, no matter how pleasing she 
strove to be.

	But that was then and this was now; for two hours it was she who 
held the whip, just as Ben Jakhar had held it in the camps and bawdy houses 
of the hinterland to spread terror and to give himself pleasure.  Danya was 
stroking the length of her selected tool between her slender fingers while the 
prince's stare fixated upon the device.  This reaction pleased Danya, for fear 
and respect were cast from the same ingot.

	"If you are obedient, Ayeesha," she said in a strong, even voice, 
"there need be no reason to switch you.  But a wise judge decreed that you 
must acquire the rudimental arts of the female slave.  If you tax our patience 
with either hesitancy or insolence, your correction will be swift and 
memorable."

	Ali was quite aware that the thing would hurt somewhat, but it clearly 
was not at all like the heavy flagellums that flayed the back and cut large 
pieces from the flesh of punished males.  This whip, she judged, would 
probably do more hurt to the pride than to the body.  Even so, the prince had 
no wish to sample it unnecessarily.

	"Yes, Master Jakhar," Ali acknowledged.

	"Very good," piped Katya.  "Isn't she good -- uh, Jakhar?"

	"Yes," affirmed Danya, "I think our lovely Ayeesha shall train very 
well."

	The dancer touched Ali's arm with the lash; she blenched despite 
herself.  "First," said Master Jakhar, "you must reorder your thinking."  She 
pointed off to one side with the whip.  "Go and kneel down before that 
dangling gem, facing the mirror."

	When she had complied, the gem came to Ali's eye-level.  She 
averted her gaze, not liking to see her reflected image.

	Danya moved a lamp so that the light reflected upon the faceted gem 
dazzlingly.  "Place your hands back upon your calves; it will help you breath 
more deeply.  And do not look away from the mirror or you shall need 
switching."  Complying, Ali noticed that her own exhales were causing the 
bauble to rotate slowly, sending tiny flashes of color into her eyes.

 	Danya moved to stand above her.  "You are overwrought, Pretty 
Slave, and must relax before we go on.  When you are completely at inner 
peace, when your thoughts are focused upon the here and now, you shall be 
ready for instruction.  Empty your mind, gaze into your own reflected eyes.  
You may ignore the gem, simply enjoy its soothing glitter."

	While Ali performed the exercise, Danya took Katya to the other side 
of the room and whispered so that Ali could not hear:

	"Katya," asked Danya, "what is the outcome that you desire for 
Prince Ali this night?"

	"I wish her to be happy," the other girl responded.

	"Can we leave it up to her to decide what is best for her own 
happiness?"

	The singing slave pursed her lips.  "I do not believe so.  The yearning 
to be a man again is very strong in most fountain girls before they receive 
Maiden's Ruin."  She then detected Danya's flinch.  "Oh, I am sorry.  I 
sometimes forget --"

	"Never mind; you are right.  Ali clearly believes it to be her duty to 
assume the burden of her father's throne."

	"That is so.  But it will not make her happy."

	"What do you think should make her so?"

	Katya beamed.  "The handsome Lord Hassan!"

	"I agree," nodded Danya, pleased that Katya seemed predisposed to 
seek the same ends that she did -- albeit for different reasons.

	"Here is my plan," the dancing girl continued.  "We will drive Ali to 
ecstasy, as the whip-masters drove me, and surely drove you also.  We must 
bring her to the point of climax repeatedly, only to deny her release.  After 
two hours, when we are ready to take her to Lord Hassan's chamber, she 
will be like a bitch in heat."

	"Ohhh," Katya cooed excitedly, "it is devious, but it may work!  I 
hope Halima does not waste all Lord Hassan's seed before we are ready."

	"Halima is with Hassan now?"

	The singing girl nodded.  "Yes.  That is bad?"

	"Not necessarily, as long as she does not take the edge off his ardor."  
Danya gripped Katya's arm.  "Listen, you must go to Halima at once.  Tell 
her not to encourage the foreign lord.  She must use her wiles to distract him 
from such thoughts.  Under no circumstances should Lord Hassan be 
permitted to expend his virile power before Prince Ali has come to him."

	"Oh, this is a dangerous game we are playing, Danya.  And who 
knows if it is the will of Allah?"

	Danya tweaked her friend's chin.  "That which is not the will of 
Allah, blessed be His name, cannot succeed.  If that which we do is His will, 
we cannot fail."

	Katya turned swiftly to go, but Danya still held her back.  "Not so 
fast!  There are yet a few more items which you must fetch for us."

		#

	The belly dancer appreciated the trance-like expression worn by the 
prince.  The slackness of her features, the unblinking stare, told Danya that 
her charge had entered into an altered state.  This was a technique brought to 
Marshan by the slave-trainers of India.  The dangling gem induced a receptive 
state of concentration during which any instructions imparted to a subject 
would remain in his mind for a long while, guiding his actions like an unseen 
master.  Danya had experienced such training herself, and had also seen it 
imposed upon others.

	Danya reviewed the situation soberly.  What usually took a whip-
master weeks to carry out, she had to achieve in only two hours.  "Maiden's 
Ruin," she knew, would attain all her ends instantly.  But any fool could use 
the magic potion upon a female.  But why would she use it even if she had 
any?  This was not about Ali, nor even Ali's fate.  This was about Danya.  -- 
It was about allowing she who had been Ben Jakhar to again experience the 
exercise of power, a need which had so long been denied her.  To accomplish 
her ends using only her intelligence would prove her worth and dignity as an 
individual.  To vindicate herself to herself, she had to achieve the specific 
ends which she had chosen to make the test.  But how to best proceed?

	Katya believed that Ali could be persuaded by coaxing to accept a 
male lover, but Danya knew that that was not so.  The transformed prince had 
been in the company of Hassan for many weeks and yet her fixation on her 
yet-retrievable past had not so far allowed her to yield to, nor admit the 
meaning of, the emotions tormenting her.  Danya's ends could be achieved 
only by achieving Ali's inner transformation.  To do that, the Damascene 
maid must be heated like raw iron, then plunged into icy water of experience 
for tempering, purification, and final transformation into Damascus steel.

	Danya settled down beside Ali and, passing her hand in front of her 
charge's eyes, confirmed that she did not blink, did not react in any way.  
The former Ben Jakhar drew a hopeful breath.  Ali was perhaps ready.  The 
next step was the critical one, for upon it the entire outcome of this 
experiment in power might ultimately hinge.

	"I will tell you what you must do, and you shall remember," she 
began, as if reciting scripture.

		 #	

	Danya had only just finished with Ali when Katya came back toting 
another basket of items, and also a pail of water.  It was an unwieldy load, 
but Katya was strong for her size.  

	The ex-bandit consulted the sand-clock.  More than a half hour of the 
two appointed had already passed.

 	 The singing girl set down her load and sped to Danya's side like a 
happy puppy.  "Everything went well!  I think Allah does favor us!"

	"Good," the dancer nodded as she searched the basket, drawing out 
the britches, boots, blouse, keffiyeh, and dust-veil of a ghazi.  She dressed 
quickly, then hopefully asked her friend, hands placed akimbo, "How do I 
look?" 

	"Like a dancing girl in man's clothes," Katya giggled.

	Danya scowled.  "A female who giggles is one who will soon be 
struck."  Then she shrugged resignedly.  "At least Ali will have no man here 
present to compare me to."

	"What next?" asked her companion excitedly.

	Danya explained her exact plan as to how to lead Ali into embracing 
her lover with a heart of joy.  The cunning of it fired the singing girl's 
already-overwrought imagination.  At that point Danya crossed over to Ali, 
who was still entranced.

	"Ayeesha!" said Danya sharply.  "Wake up!"

	The prince snapped wide-awake, blinking uncomprehendingly.  It 
seemed to her that she had closed her eyes for only a moment.  Before her 
mind was entirely clear, Danya had taken her by the right arm and Katya by 
her left.

	"As a woman you can expect to be bound by your lover," Danya 
advised her.  "You should become accustomed to such treatment from the 
beginning."  They stood Ali up, took off her vest, then positioned her in a 
spot where manacles were fixed.  She only came entirely to herself as cold 
iron clicked around her wrists. 

	"You shall like this," Danya said, running her hands lightly over Ali's 
naked belly and upper chest.  The prince's change in breathing told the 
dancing girl that the Syrian's body was a tense bundle of excitement.  Or was 
it repressed need?

	Encouraged, Danya continued to tease the girl's shoulders, arms, 
cleavage, and  midriff.  Undergoing this treatment, Ali clenched her teeth and 
braced herself against the bars behind her.

	Danya broke off and joined Katya to fetch back the standing mirror, 
to set it just a little in front of Ali.  When the image stopped jiggling, Ali saw 
a bound girl, her eyes watering, her black hair streaming.  Disturbed, she 
averted her gaze.

	The dancer stepped between Ali and the mirror and touched her breast 
through the thick fabric which cradled it.  It felt admirably firm.  "Allah has 
favored you with a magnificent figure, sweet Ayeesha," she said.  "You are 
aware that I speak truly, do you not?"

	Ali stubbornly turned her face away.

	Danya deftly undid the hooks of Ali's halter, one designed to be 
removed with ease from a shackled female, then threw it away to one side.  
The Damascene's cheeks burned at the sight of herself bare-breasted in the 
mirror, but she jutted her chin angrily.

	Danya pressed herself up against the prisoner and slipped her hands 
around to her derriere.  "Ahh," she sighed, "these are firm enough to hold a 
male high aloft.  From the front or from the rear, you are every man's dream 
of Paradise."  

	She continued her rude teasing, working her hungry fingers over 
Ali's bottom, kneading the solid flesh, pinching it and, when Ali refused to 
cry out, pinching it even harder.  Such stoicism annoyed Danya, but the 
would-be whip-mistress was patient.  Besides, she was already planning the 
vengeance which she would take.  

	But the time for that was not quite ripe.

	"You perhaps have not learned yet how much delight a woman's 
nipples may afford her," Danya suggested.  She touched Ali's pubis.  "I 
know not why, but a touch there is felt as far away as here, in what is called 
the 'zambur.'  Or are you different from other women?"  

	Her baiting won no answer other than a murderous glare.  "She has 
beautiful brown eyes," Danya thought.  If Ben Jakhar had only been a man at 
that moment. . . .

	Sighing, the dancing girl started to stroke Ali's areolae with her index 
fingers, and it required but a moment for the transformed prince to experience 
first-hand the mystical connection between her nipples and the interior of her 
thighs.  

	"Teats are made for sucking."  Danya informed her captive 
whimsically.  "I have heard of women being sent into throes by the mouth of 
a nursing babe.  My own breasts have felt the tongue and lips of many a 
lover, and so I know that such pleasure may turn the proudest of fountain 
girls into soft clay."  She bent and took a nipple between her lips.

 	Ali had increasingly felt the need for more air; by now her increasing 
excitement was causing her breasts to palpitate.

	Danya released the mammilla.  "You like it!" she laughed.  "Why, 
you were surely born for womanhood, for bondage, and for the giving of 
pleasure."  That said, she resumed her play.

	Ali set her jaw, lest she moan.  Yet, as the pleasuring went on, 
phantasms filled her feverish mind. 

	Danya paused again, but only to call to her helper.  "Katya, assist 
me!"

	As the prince stood there in fetters, the two palace slaves took delight 
in playing with her breasts -- kissing them, running their tongues all over 
their surface, of course, sucking.  Sometimes they would nip her and she 
would involuntarily release a hiss through gritted teeth.  Nonetheless, Ali 
refused to say so much as, "Ouch!"  

	But the prince was feeling much more than it appeared.  Her face took 
on the aspect of one in torture, and she worried about losing control if the 
licking and sucking continued.  But when it did continue, she lapsed into 
semi-consciousness, her mind relinquishing all restraint upon her reacting 
body.  

	Danya read her reaction, which meant that Ali was close to climax.  
She immediately stopped what she was doing, pushed Katya away, and 
pinched Ali's breasts smartly, hurting her enough to win a little yelp of pain 
from her.

	Ali looked up glassy-eyed, but she failed to go into orgasm.  Danya 
had acted in time.  

	"Bring a cup of wine," the dancer instructed Katya, and when it was 
fetched, Danya put it to the prisoner's lips.  It was strong wine and her 
intention was to eventually make the prince tipsy, but not falling-down 
drunk.  Ali would be inebriated enough to reduce her inhibitions, but not so 
much that her needs would be quelled.

	While a taste for mischief and the need to exercise power drove 
Danya, Katya was moved by a kind of sympathy.  She stroked the prince's 
beaded brow, saying:  "Wasn't that wonderful, Ali?  It doesn't have to be the 
only time you can enjoy it.  Your lover could do it for you whenever it 
pleased him.  It could happen to you again and again.  Every day, even.  It is 
all up to you."

	Ali only shook her head, whether as a sign of negation or of mere 
resignation, the singer could not know.

 	Anyway, Danya was anxious not to fritter away any more time.

	"You do not cry out," she addressed her prisoner.  "This does not 
please your masters."

	Ali raised her head.  For some reason, she felt defiant and so said:  "I 
have no masters!"

	Danya slapped the prince's face.

	Ali blenched in astonishment.  When had the prince of Damascus last 
been struck?

	"You continue to be such a proud male under the skin," Danya 
chided.  "A woman cries, she struggles, she begs like a coward, but you are 
too stiff-necked!"

	"Go to Shaitan!"

	Danya slapped her again, but this slap, like the last, was simply to 
drive home a point, not to hurt.  Driven too far, the dancer knew, the prince 
might seek for their lives later.  Danya believed, however, that light discipline 
added to Ali's excitement, and ultimately to her pleasure.  At least it had been 
that way with herself.

	"Tell us what are you so proud of?"

	When Ali remained silent, Danya pinched her nipple.

	"Shaitan's curse upon you!" Ali shouted.  "My pride is my faith, my 
family, my country."

	"How many girls have you slept with, Pretty Slave?  Are you proud 
of your many conquests?  Or were you of the bestial type who preferred 
small boys instead?"

	"It's none of your business!" Ali shouted.  Then, stung by the 
accusation that she had been a pedophile, she added,  "Allah instills a man 
with a desire for women and so he must give vent to it."

	Danya nodded knowingly.  The lady protested too much.  It was 
possible that Ali nursed an element of guilt.  If so, it might be turned into a 
desire for punishment.  And a slave who craved punishment was the truest 
sort of thrall.

	"Well then, if your ways were pleasing to Allah, is it not strange that 
the magic of Marshan should reach all the way to distant Damascus to 
introduce you to other ways?" 	"It is no judgement on me!" she 
insisted.  "It is the doing of a traitor."

	"Oftentimes God uses evil men to do such work as he intends for 
some good purpose.  It is almost certainly the will of Allah that you should be 
a woman."

	Ali looked away again.

	"Can it be that Allah placed you into the shape of a woman because it 
has been judged appropriate for you?"

	When Ali made no reply, she went on:  "Or is it that you have 
committed the sin of false pride.  Allah may have provided this fate as the 
means by which you may come to understand yourself better."

	Ali shifted, but still did not look up.

	"Very well, we shall just have to see whether you are by nature a 
man, or a woman."  

	Without saying more, Danya undid the tie around Ali's waist, so that 
the gossamer skirt slid down her thighs.  Ali reacted reflexively by widening 
her knees, thus arresting their descent, but the straddling position she was 
forced to assume made it easy for her tormentor to slip her fingers between 
her thighs.  The prince of Damascus shuddered at the contact.  

	"What's wrong?" Danya asked with feigned innocence.

	"It's -- ticklish."

	"So?" Danya responded slyly. "I do wonder why Allah has made you 
ticklish.  Might it be so that you may be more easily and more severely 
disciplined?"  Danya looked back at her confederate.  "-- Katya!"

	Danya directed the singing girl to fetch a wooden rod which was 
about a foot long and an inch thick, supporting a large shackle at either end.  
This device they fitted between Ali's legs, just below her knees.  When the 
shackles were in place, Ali stood there with her knees held a foot apart.  The 
prince's feeling of vulnerability was increased three-fold, and she 
apprehensively searched the faces of her captors.  


		 Chapter Seven 

		And if the wine you drink, the lip you press,
 		End in the nothing, all things end in -- Yes.
 		Then fancy while thou art; thou art but what 
 		Thou shalt be nothing -- thou shalt not be less.

 	Danya went speedily to a cabinet and came back with a beaker full of 
small camel-hair brushes.  She drew one of these and touched it to her own 
upper lip.  Its tip was every bit as ticklish as she remembered, so much so 
that she immediately had to rub the spot with her finger.  Then the dancer 
drew a second brush and handed it to Katya.

	Ben Jakhar now confronted Ali once more:

	"You have the courage of a prince and so you shall not need to fear 
the next test that Allah sets before you.  Can you silently endure the touch of 
the camel hair and so prove your claim to manhood, or shall we instead flush 
out the weak girl in you?"

	Ali did not fear a brush, but wondered what deviltry Danya was 
leaving unsaid.  In answer, the would-be whip-mistress touched the camel 
hair to the underside of the prince's left breast.

	Ali gasped.

	Danya was pleased to see the apprehension in Ali's eyes.  Now she 
began to play the brush over the entire left globe, and the gasps grew louder 
or softer with the variated pressure, which ranged from a very light stroke to 
a strong mopping motion.  

	"A woman's breasts are very becoming when they palpitate, sweet 
Ayeesha," Danya paused to say.  Then, not taking her eyes off her victim's 
perspiring face, she spoke over her shoulder:

	"Katya, now you try it.  Do the other one."

	Katya stepped up and gave Ali an encouraging smile.  Her whole 
attitude was one of giving naughty pleasure.  The bound girl fought back the 
impulse to ask her to forebear.

	Unwarned, the singing-girl proceeded to apply the tip of the brush to 
Ali's flesh, touching the skin ever so lightly here and there, then tickling the 
prisoner's nipples grown hard.  A moan broke from the sufferer's throat, but 
when Katya paused, Danya poked her friend in the ribs to hurry her on.  

	The resumption was marked by the rapid arousal of Ali's already-stiff 
points, making them strain tall.  Delighted, Katya worked to make them attain 
their maximum size, lapping her lightly-pigmented areola, at times flicking 
the nipple itself.  But when she sank to her knees and touched the camel hair 
to the prince's labia, the prince gave a violent response.

	"It is too soon for that," Danya advised Katya sternly:  "Soothe the 
tickle away with your mouth."

 	This suggestion daunted the singer not at all.  Therefore, to banish the 
lingering effects of the brush, she pressed her open mouth to Ali's kus, 
lapping it fondly.  When her pupil responded with involuntary murmurs of 
pleasure, Danya put her hand on her shoulder and shook her.

	"Will you never learn?" the dancing girl asked in dismay.  "To be a 
good whip-mistress you must achieve focus.  One thing at a time -- please."

	Sighing, Katya stood up and once more set about Ali's breasts, 
delightful protuberances that they were, sucking each excited little tower in 
turn while lightly fingering the other.  It was obvious that the captive liked 
this massage better than the torture of the brush, though it too seemed to 
disturb her equanimity profoundly.

	From Ali's expression, in fact, Danya adjudged that it was time for 
another sip of neat wine.  Thus, she nudged Katya aside and offered Ali a 
quarter-cup.  This the Damascene drank with a distinct shudder and a loud 
slurping sound.

	"It feels fine, doesn't it?" Danya queried Ali.  "Are you learning to 
like your lovely body just a little better?"

	The breathless prince, her head hanging, was given just a moment 
longer to rest before Danya placed her own brush inside the tiny crater of the 
prisoner's belly button and began to swirl it.  How she enjoyed her 
prisoner's increasingly beet-red and strangled expression!  The tickling 
continued until the sanguine flush suffused the prince's entire body, but was 
darkest in her cheeks and breasts.

	"Shout and yell," Danya advised the girl, "writhe your loins.  Let the 
tears stream, and I will stop at once.  All I seek is to show that you are only a 
girl by nature, one no more able to endure punishment than a thousand others 
your age."

	No plea for mercy but only a stubborn defiance showed in the 
prince's glare.

	Danya desisted.  "You are too mulish.  Why can you not accept 
Allah's judgement gracefully?"

	Accordingly, she shifted the focus of her attention some inches below 
Ali's navel, anticipating the ultimate revenge upon Ali's stoicism.  "Now you 
shall learn what true tickling is."

	"Uhhh," Ali groaned as Danya slowly passed her finger over her 
furred womanhood, feeling the membranes twitch and flutter.  At last she 
inserted her slender index finger and felt Ali's lurch.  Giving her prisoner just 
a moment to appreciate having a foreign object lodged between her labia, 
Danya proceeded to agitate the digit back and forth.  This she continued until 
able to detect a pronounced quiver in her victim's vaginal muscles.  

	She slid her digit more deeply yet, until she had arrived at the inner 
membrane which preceded the vaginal sheath.

	Unexpectedly, Danya now withdrew, transferring the brush into her 
right hand, placed its tip against Ali's belly, swishing it teasingly, as if 
writing exuberant script in a broad, flowing hand.  She insidiously worked 
the slate of her calligraphy nearer to Ali's trembling kus.

		 # 

	Now it was time.  Danya commenced plying the brush back and forth 
over the moistened gate of Allah's Paradise.  Ali bucked in response, but 
lacked the freedom of movement needed to thwart the whimsical attack.

	As Danya played the implement along over Ali's vulva, she sensed 
the girl's body coming to life.  Even so, the prisoner's cry took her by 
surprise:  

	"Allah's Mercy, I cannot bear more!"  

	Danya looked up.  "A man could take more -- a great deal more -- but 
we must suppose that a girl cannot.  It pleases your whip-masters that you 
have learned the reality of your female condition, but it is foolish to assume 
that a slave-concubine has the power to terminate her own punishment."

	Danya resumed and Ali now twisted wildly and flung her hips to and 
fro, gasping and giving out with incoherent moans and grunts, the chains 
rattling as she fought to burst them.

	 Ben Jakhar knew that now was the time to draw the coral gates of 
Ali's vulva apart and assail the princess in her bower -- the clitoris itself.  The 
effect was amazing, causing Ali to burst out with a wild shriek.  But Danya 
felt no pity and so continued the torture while hot teardrops fell from above 
and splotched her arms.  

	The tickling of Ali's kus and the princeХs unrestrained reaction to it 
gave the belly dancer distinct pleasure.  She continued ruthlessly, like a true 
whip-master, her captive's yells and frantic lurches audible testimony to her 
skill as a torturer.  It was not long before Ali's labia majora were contracting 
into a tight pout, creating an easily-accessible gap for her tormentor's probing 
brush.  Also, her zambur asserted itself strongly, presenting an improved 
target for the camel-hair tuft.

	Anticipating that Ali was again nearing climax, Danya desisted.

	"Now?" Katya asked eagerly.

	"Yes, by Allah, what do you think?!  Now!"

	Katya splashed a cup of cold water from the bucket into Ali's face.  
The latter cried out and fell forward, as far as the manacles would allow.  The 
dousing had successfully quelled the building-orgasm, just as Danya had 
intended.  Ali did not subsequently resist when her trainers unshackled her 
and carried her away from the bars.  Indeed, she was hardly aware that they 
were doing so.

		#

	"Mouth Magic is one of the best and most humbling expressions of a 
female's subjugation to a male," Danya instructed Ali, her tone pedagogic.

	Ali again beheld the object before which she knelt.  It was a man's 
cock-stand cast in bronze, its antique surface covered-over with a green 
verdigris.  A small hole was cast into its end to simulate a meatus, and below 
hung a small leather bag, the prison for two marbles.  The chair upon which 
Ben Jakhar sat was more like a saddle and the bronze piece reared up could 
have been part of her own body.   

	"You already know a great deal, I imagine," Master Jakhar went on.  
"Touch the marbles, lovely Ayeesha, but gently, in the manner in which girls 
once touched your own."

	Ali, though still inwardly resistant, did so.

	"Tickle them with your fingertips," her trainer directed.

	Ben Jakhar was remembering how she had once cut off the head of a 
clumsy maid who had bungled this instruction.  Danya had since regretted 
that act --  not from remorse, but instead because she had grown more 
sexually sophisticated.  There were divers forms of revenge which might be 
inflicted upon a beautiful female without bringing about her death or 
mutilation.  Beauty, she now believed, should be preserved on earth for its 
ability to give pleasure.  

	"Place your hands about the shaft, Ayeesha," Danya commanded, 
"and stroke its length.  You know what I am talking about.  --  Yes, that's 
right, but squeeze firmly and then release.  -- No, not just once, repeatedly!"

	"Master Jakhar" was able to observe Ali's tyro ministrations at very 
close quarters and the captive seemed less than completely innocent.  How 
many of the fleshpots in that great and wicked city of Damascus had she 
frequented as a male? wondered Danya.  "The more debauched the man, the 
more skilled the fountain-girl," was a Marshanese saying.  

	"All right, Pretty Slave," Danya said, "hold the stones in your hands 
and touch the sac with your tongue."  She supervised the subsequent action 
closely, then chided:  "No, not with a limp tongue; stiffen it, that allows the 
man to feel it more!  Shaitan!  All you need to do is what you used to want 
girls to do to you."

	She kept Ali practicing until her technique satisfied sufficiently.  At 
that juncture Danya gave this order:  "Place your tongue under a jewel and lift 
it.  When you have raised it about an inch, flick your tongue."  

	Seething, Ali brought her lingua in contact with the leather sac.  
Before long, the prince was doing her task competently.  Master Jakhar 
gritted "his" teeth in memory.  Of all the arts of the oriental harlot, Mouth 
Magic had ever been his favorite -- to receive it, of course, not to give.  How 
she longed to have a cock-stand right this minute!  She closed her eyes to 
fantasize.  Would that Jakhar and Danya could split in two beings, she 
thought -- a complete man and a complete woman.  Both male and female 
would then use the other as lovers should use one another.  He would never 
want or need any other woman, nor would she want or need another man.

	But, then again, Danya conceded honestly, Ben Jakhar had been a 
big, rough man, more intimidating to look at than pretty to behold.  Danya 
preferred men more lithe, more conventionally handsome.  She decided that 
she could satisfy the bandit's taste in women much more than he could have 
satisfied the dancing girl's taste in men.

	"Now, Ayeesha," the male-disguised woman whispered throatily, "be 
a good little slave and suck thy master's cock."

	Ali looked up angrily.

	"You must obey, Pouty Lips, or you shall be punished.  That is the 
unhappy reality of the harem girl's life.  But then, obedience is also her 
pleasure.  You are beginning to appreciate that, are you not?"  

	Though shivering with indignation, Ali applied her mouth over the 
bronze organ.  Watching Ali suck, an enforced act of exceeding degradation, 
Danya realized that she felt very little animosity toward the prince.  In fact, it 
was not really Ali whom she would have most liked to see kneeling before 
the saddle; it was Lord Dwar.  The thought of Dwar naked, collared, with 
painted lips, strong perfume mingled with body sweat, learning to please a 
man as the Damascene was now learning --

	When Ali least expected it, 'Master Jakhar' pressed a plunger which 
was part of the chair.  This pumped a thick concoction up through the meatus 
of the bronze zubb, a paste that burned like hot spice.  Ali spit it out 
spontaneously, without a thought for the consequences.

	"It is only a paste of salt, Indian pepper, and vinegar," Danya grinned 
evilly.  "It is supposed to be bad-tasting, so that when a fountain girl tastes a 
real man's honey, it must seem pleasant by comparison.  It won't poison you 
to swallow it, and indeed, you must swallow it," she went on, "no matter 
how much it burns your throat."  

	"You perverted bitch!" the Syrian exploded.  "I've had enough!  I'm 
leaving."

	And so the transformed prince sprang up and went back to her 
discarded clothing.

	Danya had expected this to happen eventually, and so reacted with 
steady calm, exclaiming:  "Kat, help me!"  

	They seized the collared prisoner, Danya firmly, Katya half-heartedly.  
"Do you know what you're doing?" the singer asked her friend, afraid that 
death by wild horses lay not distant in their futures.

	"If we let her go when she is so angry, she may very well call the 
sultan's guard!"

	"By the Almighty, I shall!" Ali growled, forgetting the oath she had 
sworn.

	"Let us take her to the divan," Danya gasped through clenched teeth.  
Ali was wrestling fiercely and Katya's help was half-hearted.  It was 
humiliating to one who had been the herculean Ben Jakhar that a supple girl 
could give her such a fight.

	Ali was thrown face-down over the edge of a backless divan mounted 
with manacles, and the girls shackled her there.  

	The palace slaves permitted Ali just a brief respite to calm herself 
down, then Danya picked up the girl-whip.  "Ayeesha, for violence against 
your trainers you shall receive ten strokes.  This is a very light punishment; I 
have seen girls suffer ten times ten for offenses even less than yours."

	The false-ghazi ignored the captive's curses and stood flexing the 
switch contemplatively.

	"You are blessed with a perfect derriere," Danya remarked.  "A man 
might seek through all the flesh-markets of the East and not discover a better.  
Be warned; any who beholds beauty in such will delight in striking it.  May 
Allah send you a strong and virile master who will prove me right!"

	Ali had stopped blaspheming and steeled herself for the coming pain.  
Danya took a comfortable position, then smacked the girl squarely across the 
buttocks.  

	This blow won just a tiny grunt and a lurch from the bound Ali, but 
Danya knew how much the girl-whip hurt.  Gaining confidence, Danya 
administered four more strokes.  At each Ali flinched pronouncedly, but yet 
refused to cry out.

	"Whipping you is like beating a camel pack!" complained Danya.  
"Shout!  Bounce your bottom!  Let your master know you are badly 
suffering.  Stubborn pride will make a whip-master very angry --  And a girl 
is unwise to incite those who hold power over her."

	In truth, each blow of the switch had stung Ali like a lick of fire, but 
damn the dancer to Shaitan!  She would never exhibit weakness with slaves 
looking on.

	Danya resumed the chastisement; the last five blows, like the first, 
being sharp and swift.  Finally the whip-mistress tossed the lash aside.  Time 
was so short and she doubted whether Ali was becoming emotionally 
prepared for any sort of rendezvous with Hassan.

	Still, all she could do was press ahead.  "All you fountain girls are 
afraid of penetration," the belly dancer told the prince matter-of-factly.  
"Therefore, the sooner you have experienced it, the better.  However, we 
should not want to diminish you in the eyes of your lover, and so we shall 
initiate you to womanhood's mysteries by way of your lesser gate of 
pleasure, which many call 'ShaitanХs Gate.Х"

	Ali knew the euphemism well and looked back disconcertedly.  Katya 
stepped near to soothe her.  "Now, now, Ali -- I mean Ayeesha -- what we're 
going to do next isn't a punishment.  It shall feel very good, in fact.  I have 
experienced it many a time myself.  Once you feel the pleasure that a man's 
big zubb affords you, you shall want to lie in a living male's bed ever so 
much."

	Katya oiled the phallic object that Danya had given her and placed it 
against Ali's anus.  Slowly and with great circumspection she inserted it.

	Ali's eyes widened and her lips parted to form a large O.  The strange 
intrusion felt at first like a reverse bowel movement, and the dildo felt much 
wider and longer than it was.

	"A girl's backside wasn't made for this sort of thing," Katya 
apologized, "but it will suggest for you a woman's experience with a man.  -- 
See, is it not nice?  Imagine that I am Lord Hassan and that he is filling you 
with his rampant object of flesh."

	Ali gave a tiny murmur of discomfort.

	"It would be hurtful should I move it too vigorously," Katya said, 
"but a little motion shall impart a sweet sort of pain."

	Very circumspectly, Katya jogged the leather phallus in and out, 
suggesting the thoughtful ministrations of a gentle lover.  The inanimate 
object was a poor substitute for flesh, she knew, but out of its very 
insufficiency might Allah not instill into Ali the yearning to have more and 
better?

	Danya shifted restlessly from one foot to the other.  She had thought 
from the beginning that Katya's technique as a whip-mistress was insipid, 
but yet it seemed that Ali was responding.  That which had been merely moist 
between her thighs was becoming wet with erotic lubricants.  The girl's 
zambur was enlarging too, a certain sign of arousal.  Danya consequently 
reached in and began to play with Ali's clitoris in a whimsical, tentative 
manner which was calculated to madden.

	Suddenly, under the hands of professional pleasure-givers, Ali felt a 
stirring, like she had felt before this terrible night, but never so pleasurable 
this.  It was like the anticipation of a new-rising sun down in her loins -- a 
heat which was starting to suffuse her entire body --  

	"Aragg!" she cried as cold water sloshed over her head.  

	Danya stood back, letting Ali spit and sneeze while  Katya wiped the 
droplets off her own arms.  True to her plan, the dancer was determined that 
Ali should have no premature relief.  

	"What did you do that for?!" Ali complained.

	Danya slapped her smartly across buttocks still sore from switching.  
"No questions, slave.  It is your lot to simply accept and endure."

	The belly dancer readjusted the manacles and turned Ali over upon her 
back.  The prince looked down over the peaks of her bosom, trying hard to 
read intention in the women's faces.  She was deathly afraid that she was to 
be tickled again.

	"We must move on swiftly," Danya said.  "Let us first teach you a 
passive art which shall not overtax you."

	She took a seat above Ali and brought her lips to meet the prisoner's.  
"I will be placing my tongue inside your mouth, and you will not permit 
yourself to gag, nor resist in any way."

	Ali's resigned blink sent Danya the message to proceed.  

	Some men, the dancer knew, liked initiative in their women, while 
still others were affronted by it.  Danya was seeking to impress upon Ali that 
it is the woman who must read her lover's tastes and needs.  A man, she also 
had to understand, was under no special obligation to concern himself at all 
with his partner's desire -- a fact that had oftentimes driven Danya herself to 
distraction.

	The male-garbed girl bent and kissed Ali's mouth lightly, then urged 
her teeth apart with her tongue.  The intrusion was tentative at first as Danya 
played with her partner's tongue and tickled her gums.  This approach, 
without the roughness of the previous lesson, allowed Ali a respite.  Indeed, 
kissing a slave girl was nothing new to her.

	The keffiyehed woman was thrusting her lingua deeply now, teasing 
Ali's tongue, encouraging it to join in the frolic.  Danya's hand had gone to 
Ali's breasts, tickling them with her fingertips, making their buds reassert 
their arousal.

	The dancer at length desisted and drew back.  "You kiss well," she 
told Ali, drying her lips on her sleeve.  "You could make a man very happy."

	Ali glanced away, vexed.

	"I know that a kiss is nothing new to you, sweet one, but there are 
experiences which only a woman may know."

	Ali turned her head alertly, suspiciously watching for Danya's next 
move.  Instead, she felt Katya's hands take a firm hold upon her hips, espied 
the girl's head sinking toward them, and gave out a little gasp as a wet tickle 
was felt upon her lower abdomen.  

	Katya's impudent lips were soon planting rascally kisses all over the 
bound maid's thighs.  Ali tried to wriggle, but her bonds made that 
impossible.

	She could do no more than moan in a soft, breathy tone as the 
singer's tongue slithered between the folds of her vulva.  The Damascene's 
back arched involuntarily as her muscles tightened as she received 
cunnilingus, but strain to defy it though she might, the pleasure waxed ever 
sharper.  Once again that peculiar heat was beginning to suffuse her loins, but 
it swiftly spread to her breasts, her cheeks. . . .

	Cold water!

	"Not again!  No!" Ali yelled.

	"We have no time to indulge your insatiable need of pleasure, naughty 
girl," remarked Danya, who was now filling the water cup with wine.  
"There is only time left to dress you for Lord Hassan."

	It was all over?  As she took the tart beverage into her mouth, Ali 
could scarcely believe that liberty was at hand; the last two hours had felt like 
a plunge into Hell, an ordeal which would never end.  But instead of 
experiencing relief at the prospect of freedom, she felt a tinge of panic in its 
place.  The Damascene did not feel the least bit ready to encounter Hassan -- 
either as a lover or as a friend.    

	Danya unshackled Ali, who lay back in a daze, automatically rubbing 
her excited zambur.  Katya came to her a moment later, holding some blue 
garments.  These, the singer assured her, were similar in fabric and cut to 
what she had seen Halima wearing this night.

 	Ali gave the clothes but a glance as she sat up and rubbed between the 
legs.  This simple massage comforted her somewhat, but infernally induced 
an even greater sense of urgency.

	Katya set the garments aside and dipped a cloth into the bucket of 
water.  "Hurry, lovely one, hurry.  Your sweating body must be refreshed 
and scented, so that it shall not offend the nose of Lord Hassan!

		#

	By the time the sands had run out, Ali had been sponge-bathed, her 
facial paint corrected, and her body clad in the blue halter, veil, wrap, and 
harem briefs.  By that time the sand had run out, and she regarded the young 
women warily.  Were they actually willing to relinquish the power that they 
had wielded for the last two hours?  It seemed that they were.  Each went 
about her duties with bowed head, and the graceful language of their bodies 
conveyed the message that their original roles were restored.

	They had been harsh with her, but had they broken their promises? 
Ali wondered.  Perhaps not, though she had not understood beforehand the 
intensity of feeling that she was agreeing to subject herself to.  Was theirs a 
deliberate deception?  If so, had she not been prepared for deceit -- and had 
she not accepted it with eyes open?

	She looked at herself in the mirror.  "It is mad to think I could go to 
Hassan like this.  He would think that I've lost my mind."  She looked 
plaintively at the girls.

	"Not so, lella," Katya counseled respectfully, addressing Ali as 'lady' 
for the first time.  "He will think that his dreams have come true."

	"You do not understand!  He will never disobey my father.  He  is a 
man of honor!"

	Danya laughed.  "I have told you that he shall be blindfolded.  And do 
not worry -- women know how to deal with men of honor."  She held up a 
small bottle.  "Here, Princess.  It is the very type of perfume that Halima is 
wearing tonight.  Let us dab it upon your limbs also."

	Ali regarded the vial warily.  "Why that perfume in particular?  Is it 
magic?"

	"Not magic, lella, but a ruse.  Lord Hassan's eyes shall be stopped, 
but not his nose."  She turned to the singing girl:  "Go on ahead to warn 
Halima that we are ready.  And tell me what she says."

		 #

	Halima had been feeding Lord Hassan one grape at a time.  The game 
required that he should take it from between her breasts without using his 
hands.  

	Suddenly there was a tapping at the door -- three raps followed by 
two, the signal which Halima had been told to expect."  The slave girl perked 
up.  "Allow me, master?"

	"Yes, go," the young warrior sighed.  He sank back into his pillow.  
He had grown confused by Halima's manner, unsure whether the girl wished 
to lie with him or not.  When he wished to turn over and go to sleep, she 
persistently stimulated and amused him.  When he began to think it would be 
pleasant to take her, she distracted him with song or a bit of foolery.  He 
might have taken what he wanted at will, but he was in fact simply too 
ambivalent that night to know what he really wanted from her.

	Halima peered out into the corridor.

	"How do you fare?" Katya asked anxiously.

	"All is well so far, Kat, but hurry!  I do not think I can fend off his 
eagerness much longer."

	"We will be back very soon -- along with the girl who loves him!"

	The concubine shook her head.  "I am very afraid that we are getting 
ourselves into terrible trouble."

	"Please, do not give up!  A woman's happiness is in the balance."

	Halima placed her hands over her ears.  "Do not tell me more!  The 
more I know, the harder the beating."

	Katya darted away and the pleasure slave returned to the bed.  Hassan 
smiled up at her and ran a caressing hand over one naked thigh.  Though he 
was troubled of heart, her poetry, her scent, and her soft touch were yet 
making his blood warm.

		#

	The heir of Damascus beheld her own reflection.  Could Hassan have 
recognized her on sight?  The kohled eyes which showed above the line of 
her veil might have belonged to any young concubine.

	"What do you feel when you see yourself so?" asked Danya, who had 
by now reexchanged her male garb for the costume of the harem.

	Ali answered absently.  "Wonder, and shame!" 

	"Why shame?  Beauty is the gift of Allah."

	Ali shook her head, unwilling to follow Danya's argument.  "This 
beauty is my sister's, not mine," murmured the Syrian, staring down at her 
slippered feet.

	Danya frowned.  Ali was still too full of doubt.  She fell back upon 
her final subterfuge.  So, clapping her hands three times, she pronounced:  
"Ayeesha!"

	The soft flow of Ali's body lines stiffened.

	"Raise your head and look at yourself in the mirror," Danya 
commanded.

	As Ali did so, Danya felt immense relief.  The commands which she 
had placed into the Damascene's entranced mind two hours before still 
lingered.

	"Tell me, Pretty Slave, why did Allah place a houri such as you into 
this world?"

	"To give pleasure to men."

	"What variety of pleasure?"

	"All varieties.  The pleasure of the smile, the pleasure of the voice, the 
pleasure of the touch, the pleasure of scent.  And most of all the pleasure of 
beauty."

	"You remember, good," nodded the belly dancer.  "Continue to 
remember when you are with Lord Hassan.  I shall be with you there, 
guiding you."

	Ali nodded slowly.

	"Now you will awaken," pronounced Danya, "and forget that we 
have just spoken."

	Ali relaxed, then appeared puzzled.  She thought that Danya had just 
been speaking to her, but exactly what the words had been eluded her.

	Just then, Katya hurried back into the chamber.  "I talked to Halima," 
bubbled the singing-girl.

	Danya took hold of her and drew her aside.  "Tell me in private.  
Ayeesha has too much on her mind just now," she said loud enough for Ali 
to hear.

	"All is ready," Katya whispered.  "She waits for us!  But we must 
hurry -- Lord Hassan has great need for a woman!"

	"I see," murmured Danya, turning back to Ali, her mien grave.  "I 
don't know if this is good news or bad, my prince," she advised.

	"What?"

	"Halima could not restrain the lord's ardor!" Danya lied.  "He took 
her, not once, but four times, compelling her to perform at the limit of her 
skill.  Alas, she is a gabbadzah, which is a courtesan trained to milk a man 
dry.  Your comrade received much pleasure tonight, but, alas, after four 
times it is impossible that he has more seed to give."

	Ali's face heated with a flush.  "No seed?"

	"None!  At least you shall be safe from the consequences of love, 
however passionate it should become.  Therefore you need not be coy, but -- 
alas -- he doubtlessly will be flaccid throughout your encounter.  I am a 
courtesan and so understand these things, dear lella."

	Ali shifted uneasily.  What did she intend to do in that room, really?

	"I'm not sure. . ." Ali began.

	"Take courage, prince."  She again explained her plan, concluding 
with -- "So to gain the knowledge you seek it is not  necessary that you 
permit him to fill you with his mighty member.

	"If I do not get away undiscovered," she whispered, "it will destroy 
our friendship."

	"The lightning destroys a tree only to permit another to grow in its 
place," the dancer reminded her.  "That is the way of things." 

	Ali only shook her head.  Danya sighed heavily and decided that Ali 
needed still another mug of the strong wine. 


		 Chapter Eight

		 There was a door to which I found no key
: 		 There was a veil past which I could not see.
 		 Some little talk awhile of me and thee 
		 There seemed -- and then no more of thee and me.

 	The tapping sounded anew upon Hassan's door.

	"What fool is it who goes about the palace knocking at this hour?" the 
warrior asked irritably.

	"An old woman of the chamber pots," Halima explained hastily.  
"The poor dear is ever forgetful of which suites she has already visited."  The 
concubine shouted at the door.  "Go away old woman!  We need no more of 
you tonight."

	Now alerted, Halima knew that it was time to deceive Lord Hassan, 
she said:  "Such a handsome master must surely have made love to many 
women between Damascus and Marshan."

	"Not so," Hassan lamented.  "I have traveled many months without 
the company of any woman."

	"Why, Master?" 

	The warrior looked away.  "It is hard to explain.  When the heart is 
sick it cannot hold pleasure any more than sand may hold the rain."

	"I think I understand," nodded Halima.  "The master misses the 
excellent woman who waits for him at home." 

	"Home?" Hassan chortled bitterly.  "-- Excuse me, Halima, I have no 
one waiting for me in Damascus.  It is my own fault; I have placed love in 
abeyance while my father seeks a daughter-in-law which shall suit him."

	"I see," said Halima.  "But it is not possible that my master does not 
have a woman whom he loves!  Tell me I am right, Lord.  It is so plain that 
you are sad.  Does she whom you love spurn you?  Does she belong to 
another?  Are your families in feud?"

	He shook his head.  "No such simple happenstance, lovely Halima.  
Allah tantalizes me with her succulence, and yet will not let me taste of the 
fruit."

	"Allah works in mysterious ways."

	"That is so," Hassan agreed wistfully.

	"I have a plan to lighten your heart!  Let me be the girl whom you 
love."

	Hassan broke into laughter.  "You tempt me, sweet one, but the soul 
needs choose its own mate, and mine, sorry to say, has not chosen you."

	Halima's glow was undimmed.  "We of Marshan have a game which 
never fails to ease a lovelorn heart such as yours."

	He smiled wonderingly.  "You of this city have many games, it 
seems.  Well, of what sort of game do you speak, my delight?  If my woe 
could be lightened, it would be a miracle even greater than that fountain of 
yours."

	"It is simple, brave lord.  You will wear a blindfold and pretend I am 
that unique woman of your heart.  I will say not a word, no matter how 
ardently you court me, thus you shall not lose the illusion that I am your 
secret lady-love, but yet you may speak boldly.   Let free all the passion 
which is pent up in your doleful heart, so that it will cease to afflict you."

	"I have my doubts, but still your game is something which I have not 
tried as yet.  You are certain you will not feel slighted when I profess to you 
the intense love which I feel for another?"

	"I will feel nothing -- nothing but joy, I mean.  My happiness is your 
happiness."

	Halima removed her scarf, a bit of pleasantly-scented silk.  When she 
had rendered him sightless, she said:  "These are the last words that shall 
pass my lips tonight, until, that is, you discover me curled up beside you in 
the light of dawn.  You must not under any circumstances take off the scarf 
until then; it is said to be very unlucky to do so."

	"Very well, proceed," said Hassan with a wan smile.

	Instead of touching him, Halima scurried to the door.  Behind it stood 
Ali, Danya, and Katya.  Halima noted that the new girl, the object of all this 
subterfuge, was veiled, but her demeanor suggested an acute uneasiness, as 
if she might fear a whipping also.  Halima bustled out into the hall, while 
Danya nudged Ali into the room, then pushed the door shut behind her.  Out 
of her bag she took a wooden wedge, and this she slipped under the door 
crack, so that the portal would not open until it was removed.

		#

	Ali no sooner found herself in the chamber, than the warrior-trained 
youth felt the cold touch of panic.  

	She turned in retreat, but in reaching for the door handle, she found 
that route of escape locked.  Those fiendish women have locked it! she 
thought in fury.  Without pondering their motives, Ali turned anxiously 
toward the man on the bed.  At the sight of him her uncertainty worsened and 
she instinctively shrunk back against the panels.

	Then, out of nowhere, she thought she heard a whisper in her mind:

	"This is the man you love, Ayeesha -- your brother, your twin, your 
friend, your strong right arm, your complement, your confidant. Feel again 
the yearning which you confessed to Katya and to me.  Let love be a gentle 
breeze which drifts you into his arms."

	Ali gasped.  Was this her heart speaking?  The silent speech alarmed 
her at first and she glanced about nervously.  Strange djinn held sway this 
night, assuredly!  But the words of assurance. . . they did soothe, did 
encourage.

	 "Halima," Hassan called bemusedly from the bed, "are you playing 
some silly joke on me?  Where did you go?"

	Ali came alert.  If she did not immediately take Halima's place, she 
knew, Hassan would take off his blindfold and see her -- his friend -- 
dressed as a harem girl!  

	"If you do not go to him, all which you have suffered shall be for 
naught.  Approach him, sweet Ayeesha.  Excite him with your touch."

	Ali lurched forward, stepped on the corner of her shawl and tore it 
from her shoulders.  She barely noticed its loss in her urgency to touch 
Hassan's arm and assuage his suspicions.

	"My beloved, is that you?"

	Ali knew that she must keep silent, for Danya had explained that 
carefully.  She briefly wondered who exactly was the woman whom Hassan 
was addressing in such passionate tones.  Some concubine back in Damascus 
perhaps?

	"You are beautiful, my houri," Hassan whispered.  He avoiding 
saying the name of his beloved for he did not want anyone, not even a 
concubine of Marshan, to know his guilty secret.  "Thy face is the Evening 
Star, thy voice is song!  My heart aches for thee.  Let me touch thy hand."

	Ali tentatively touched Hassan's fingers.

	The warrior swept her hand to his lips, savoring its scent.  "Ahhh, 
you are wearing perfume.  What else are you wearing?"

	He ran his hands lightly over her garments, and also her thighs, up to 
the point where her satiny hips filled her taut briefs.  Unsated, his eager 
fingers plucked at the midnight fabric which he discovered and then glided 
smoothly across her bare midriff.  She could not help but shiver.

	"Soul of my soul, you are nearly naked!  How often I have imagined 
you in the scanty garments of a slave.  Allah has crafted your exquisite body 
for silk, for bangles, and bracelets.  He has made your feet for satin shoes, 
and your heavy bosoms for straining halters."

	He followed a trail of nudity from her cleavage to her throat.

	"Thou art veiled," Hassan murmured as he pressed the gossamer 
fabric  "From this day forward, precious one, let no man look upon thy 
lovely face save for myself."

	The hand then slid under Ali's hair, glided around her neck, and came 
to rest upon her nape.  "Kiss me, child of the desert," he urged in tones soft 
and low.

	Kiss Hassan?  Ali squirmed.  If she kissed him and he then 
discovered her, what could she say?

	But Hassan had no patience for demureness.  He boldly drew her face 
up against his, swept aside her veil with his free hand, and entrapped her 
mouth with his own.  The texture of his upper lip, the clove-scent of his 
breath, his manly cologne, made the kiss one which was very different from 
any which she had ever experienced before.

	Though daunted, Ali yet dared not struggle; a concubine like Halima, 
she apprehended, would never have permitted herself to struggle.  The 
slightest mistake in the midst of this liaison would alert Hassan to the falsity 
of the game.  She wished she had never come, but now Ali had to get 
through the whole night without his discovering her identity.  Thank Allah 
that Hassan had utterly spent himself upon Halima, or she could never have 
dared the danger of staying.

	His tongue, invading her mouth, swirled all around inside, trying to 
provoke a "tongue war."  Just before she was about to push free and spoil 
everything, her inner voice returned:

	"How pleasant are a man's kisses.  Open your soul, Ayeesha, 
become the willing receptacle for the love that he would give you.  Love and 
Pleasure are the food for the starving spirit.  Feel the gnaw of your hunger, 
and dare to feast. . . ."

	Once again, the counsel calmed her.  Hassan's manly breath no 
longer put her off and, instead, she found delight in the kissing.  If this act 
was evil, then it was her evil alone.  Hassan, Allah bless him, was untainted.  
Unlike her, he believed that he was kissing the person he loved.

	But, then again, was Ali not doing that also?

	The warrior's lips released hers, but only to make a nibbling passage 
to her chin, her collar, her throat, and finally her bosom.  Thrill raced from 
her nipples to that pit of the hunger between her thighs.

	"Let me take off your halter," coaxed Hassan.

	Ali stiffened while her companion savored the removal the tiny 
garment.  Even in her emotional state, Ali appreciated the tenderness with 
which he was going about his work.  But granting that, she could not forget 
that his tenderness was being extended not to her, but to another, by proxy.

	Ali felt the cool of the night air on her bared breasts, contrasting 
starkly with Hassan's feverish exhales.  The lingering kisses made her skin 
prickle and her breath come in gulps.

	"He is touching your breasts, Ali.  Savor it.  Need it.  Feel the 
craving in your loins."

	She uttered tiny sounds as his oral worship of her continued 
unabated, and these Hassan interpreted as the expression of passion.

	He eased himself back, whispering:  "Light of my Life, so many 
times I have wanted to kiss thee so, run my hands over thy sublime form.  
Yet, had I done so, you would have hated me, reviled me, driven me from 
your presence. . . ."

	Ali's eyes burned.  Hassan's vast heart could love with such 
intensity, but it loved another.  Part of her wished she might leap from a 
mountaintop upon comprehending that, and part of her wanted to slay 
whatever harlot her friend yearned for.

	"I have not been able to make love for months," whispered Hassan 
between kisses.  "Every woman in my arms slowly transforms into you.  If 
only I could be rid of such thoughts that make me a traitor, a monster."

	Ali could not understand her friend's intense anguish.  What was this 
terrible, tormenting love?  Hassan had never confided it to her, though they 
had been as close as brothers.  Why had he feared to speak?  Did he fear 
derision?  The fool!  How could one who was as tortured as herself fail to 
commiserate?  

	"Dearest," sighed Hassan, "I have had a vision, a terrible vision that 
has afflicted me.  I am ashamed to even speak of it:

	"In my vision you come into my tent garbed very plainly.  I suppose 
then you only wish to discuss some matter of business.  But without a 
spoken word, you commence then to divest yourself, until you stand naked 
before me.  I am amazed, for you are much more beautiful than I had ever 
imagined, the fairest houri of Paradise.  Your dust veil is removed last of all 
and, to my amazement, you are wearing the collar of some lowly caravan 
chattel."

	Hassan ran his fingertips over the collar which Ali wore in fact.   

	"I am unable to rise, unable to speak.  Your beauty and my desire 
have transfixed me.  Then you sink to your hands and knees and come near 
me like a wild she-beast.  The passion in your eyes seems so raging that I 
would be alarmed, except that by thy collar I know thee for a tame beast and 
thus I have no fear.  

	"You come closer, ever closer, until you bend thy head and extend 
thy tongue to tickle the toes of my feet.  Oh, my love, do that for me now, I 
beg you!"

	His earnest words had very nearly bewitched Ali.  She obligingly 
changed her position and adored his feet with kisses.

	Hassan nudged her back and then slipped off his light drawers.  Ali 
quailed slightly to see her friend render himself naked from the waist down.  
"Oh, glorious Allah," the Damascene lord murmured, "-- the incomparable 
she-beast licks my toes!  Wonderful, wonderful.  Now, my she-beast, place 
kisses from my ankles up my shins, then over my knees, and along my 
thighs."

	Ali did so and, for the first time in her life, the contact of hair upon 
her tongue did not revolt her.

	Hassan spread his knees.  "Now the time comes in which my collared 
lover kisses the interior of my thighs."

	Ali hesitated only an instant before acceding to his request.  His flesh 
felt hot against her lips and nose.

	"Marvel of marvels," Hassan groaned.  Ali continued for a little 
longer, but suddenly noticed how Hassan's great scepter had been stimulated 
to growth by her devotions so far.

	Ali drew in a harsh breath and closed her eyes.  The sight of a man's 
lordly tower hardening because of what she had done filled her with 
uncertainty.

	"See Man's great minaret, Ali?" Danya's voice whispered.  "What 
verse of poetry, what treasure of the craftsman's art compares?  It fires your 
blood, the heat you feel is unbearable.  It is the Mystery, the Tree of Life; it is 
that which still holds the Forbidden Fruit of Knowledge for Woman to taste.  
It is the Temptation that seduced Eve and all the daughters which have come 
after her."

	"Now, Precious, do what my she-beast does.  Touch my scrip of 
jewels with thy magic tongue."

	Ali's mind whirled.  What was the alternative?  The windows were 
sealed against thieves with a mesh.  She looked back at the door, which 
offered no route of escape at all.  Anxious that Hassan would unmask himself 
if she delayed too long, she parted her lips.

	"Ayeee!" Hassan cried delightedly as his beloved's tongue caressed 
his testicles.

	"Is it not a blessing to a woman worshipping upon your knees before 
the scepter of Man?" Danya said.

	She compelled herself to take one stone of flesh between her puckered 
lips.  Hassan shook with pleasure, his manhood blood-gorged and hard.  Ali 
released her captive to behold the display in wonder.  What virility his mighty 
organ evinced, to rise like a minaret after expending himself in so many 
rounds of passion with Halima the gabbadzah!

	"Oh, now, my sweet, do not delay!" pleaded Hassan.  "I cannot 
endure!  Bless me with the magic of thy mouth."

	Ali's eyes blinked.  Mouth Magic?

	"Do not turn your face from Mouth Magic, Ayeesha.  It is Woman's 
joy.  It is the supreme surrender of feminine pride to the sway of Man.  The 
act is as delightful to the wife as to the harlot."

	The prince began her unaccustomed task tentatively, her pink tongue, 
shiny with moisture, crawling nervously over the knob that topped his cock-
stand.  Hassan reacted under her with a shudder.  A warmth spread through 
his jewels as she licked and licked, and his zubb grew larger with each pulse 
beat, rising, rearing up higher and higher and looking more and more 
formidable.  

	Then, gaining confidence, Ali opened her mouth wide and eased the 
swollen pole-arm into her face.  The sensation was intensely exciting, and 
again the nobleman trembled.

	Memories flooded back to Ali, sweet memories of how concubines 
had serviced her as a man.  Inspired, she paused and pulled back her head to 
let his Fruit escape her, but only to begin licking it.  Her tongue slipped all 
around the helmet-like head before she again mouthed it, again renewed her 
sucking, doing so even more vigorously than before.  With increasing 
boldness, she pumped her dilated lips up and down his straining, throbbing 
tool.

	Hassan's scepter throbbed with urgency and desire as she slipped her 
velvety lips along its hot stem.  He was moving his hips forward and back 
without even knowing it, pushing ever more deeply into her torrid mouth.

	"Remember, my princess, your pleasure means nothing.  Focus 
yourself totally upon his pleasure, on his arousal."

	Ali's cheeks were hollowing, her fluid tongue squirming over him, 
her jaws distending as she sucked hard and fast -- energetically if inexpertly -
- working herself hard over the length of her lover's noble meat.

 	Hassan was shuddering and groaning, feeling his seed straining to 
come.  He checked himself with a mighty exercise of will, not desiring to end 
his indescribable pleasure so soon.  "Stop, my desert beast, stop," he 
gasped.  "Bring me some wine."

	Ali did stop immediately, naively supposing that his words were of 
frustration for having no seed to expend.  Reassured, therefore, she rolled 
from the bed and went to the table, where a tray of refreshments waited.

	The prince dried her lips with a napkin, then, needing a drink even 
more than the man in the bed, she hurriedly poured and gulped down a cup of 
the amber-colored liquor.  Only belatedly did she realize her error.  A slave 
might drink only when bidden -- but, happily, Hassan could not see.  
Rendered just a little shaky from this near-miss with disaster, she filled her 
companion's cup and served it to his blind grasp. 

	Only now, watching him drink, did Ali appreciate the outrageousness 
of the act which she had just performed.  If her plot was discovered after 
committing such an outrage upon him, he would hate her, perhaps even slay 
her in justifiable loathing.  

	Refreshed, Hassan set the cup on the floor and reached out to grasp 
Ali's leg.  The warrior played his fingers upon her flesh until they were 
plucking at the narrowest part of her briefs.

	"Thy precious bottom obsesses me," he whispered hoarsely, cupping 
one of her buttocks.  "I have watched it for hours bouncing upon a horse's 
saddle!  Allah has daily shown me Paradise, but has also placed his Angel of 
the Flaming Sword between me and thee so that I might not touch it."

 	 Ali saw that the scarf over his eyes showed the dark spots left by 
tears.  "When did my agony begin?" he asked in plaintive sorrow.  "Never 
did I dare to speak of my passion, or reach out to embrace thee.  I have 
ridden out into the desert alone sometimes, to shout my love to the empty 
wastes, until my throat burned like the heated sand of midday!"

	A descending tear tickled Ali's nose.  Hassan, you fool! she accused 
in silence.  No woman alive is worthy of you!  Why weep for one who can 
never be yours?   There are --

	There are what? she wondered what she meant to say.  If she knew, 
she hardly yet dared confess it to herself.

	The warrior grasped her waist just then, massaging it with his strong 
thumbs.  "I've undressed thee with my eyes a thousand times, Perfect One.  
Let me render thee as Allah made you, and revel in your nakedness as I press 
it against mine own."

	It was a good thing that Hassan could not see Ali's face as he peeled 
her briefs down, over her knees, calves, and slippers.  It had been but a tiny 
garment, yet how vulnerable did its absence render her.

 	Ali felt Hassan's maleness stir against her thigh while his hands 
stroked her bottom, ran his hands up her flanks.  He pinched her suddenly, 
yet though her eyes started and her teeth clenched, she suppressed the 
impulse to cry out.

	Now Hassan fed his hand between her warm thighs, until it attained 
her trembling kus.  Her flesh broke out in fine beads of perspiration, the 
scent of which, mingled with the aromatic scent of her florid perfume, 
aroused Hassan all the more.

	"He is touching your furrow," Danya whispered.  "Your modesty 
cannot endure.  You become like hot, flowing wax.  You must have relief 
from your intense desire, and this is a relief that only a man can afford you. . 
. ."

	Her companion was delving with increased audacity, teasing her labia 
minora, calling forth a rich answering flow of lubricants.  The lord, uniting 
his index and middle fingers into a kind of zubb fed them full into Ali.  
"Ohhhhhh!" she ejaculated, this being the loudest utterance which she had so 
far permitted herself.

	Hassan started.  The obstruction he encountered informed him that the 
girl was a virgin.  How could it be? he wondered.  The nobleman reached for 
his blindfold in perplexity, but Ali caught his hands.  Then he again relaxed, 
understanding, he thought, the dimensions of the sultan's vast bounty.  What 
a compliment to pay to a stranger -- giving him a virgin, and one well-trained 
in the practices of love at that.  He smiled, reminded that the woman whom 
he loved was a virgin, also.

	Yet because of, rather than in spite of, her maiden purity, he removed 
his hand.

	Not again! thought Ali, who had been brought to the brink of yet 
another orgasm.  Had all the world united against the proposition that she 
should attain relief?  The Syrian maid cast tearful eyes to heaven.  Allah, why 
do you make me suffer so?  Was I so great a sinner?  If not, my punishment 
is too great!  

	Hassan, oblivious to his partner's anguish, brought her face to his 
lips, whereupon he kissed her cheek.  

	"I love you, deeply, truly, and forever," he sighed.  "After tonight, 
my heart will be as ashes; I cannot bear to have you and yet not have you.  I 
shall never return to Damascus.   I shall go south, to the Persians, I think, 
and seek service in the shah's army while I struggle to forget.  I wish to 
remember you, Soul of my Soul, only as we have been tonight, not as we 
must be tomorrow.  I am in despair, and yet how happy we might have been, 
had God been kinder!"

	Ali listened in horror.  Was Hassan leaving in fact, or was this only a 
fantasy spun from his passion and despair?  She silently vowed that if her 
dear friend would not return home, then she would not do so either.  Let her 
father find a husband for Ayeesha and make that man an emir.  Hassan could 
not be left to wander the barren world without a comrade to share his pain.

	Ali was so lost in thought that she did not quite grasp what his object 
was when the warrior repositioned her.  

	She was thinking instead that Katya and Danya had been right.  Only 
by coming to Hassan as she had come could she have gained the intelligence 
she needed.  Ali knew now how to set the course for the rest of her life.  She 
would go to the fountain in the morning and become a man, but no one 
would be the happier for it.  Hassan did not love her, could not love her, of 
course, except as a friend and comrade.  And that was what she would be to 
him, even while she sought to banish her sorrowful imaginings of what 
might have been, had -- as Hassan said -- Allah been kinder.

	Suddenly she flinched; Hassan had begun stroking his blood-gorged 
zubb against her befurred lips.

	"Let me inside you, Dearest," he rasped.  "Let my ardor be the arrow 
of love that strikes thy beating heart."

	Danya's words returned yet again:

	"Do not fear the warrior's mighty pole arm, my princess.  The wound 
of this spear is tender.  It is the Supreme Mystery, the open book; it is that 
which no man may know; it is the Fruit of Eden, and the lips of your loins 
are burning to taste of it."

	Hassan was seeking entry, wondering why his lover had suddenly 
turned cold. . . .

	"As Eve gained Knowledge of the Fruit, so may you, also, Ayeesha.   
-- All of Woman's secrets, save one, are yours to acquire.  All secrets, save 
one alone, and this last, too, can be yours.  Like all the others, it is attainable 
only through the miracle of the Fruit."

	Gaining courage, Ali lifted herself just enough to allow him to effect 
his entry.  

	As his intrusion deepened, the prince was perplexed to know what 
should a woman now do.  Her mind feverishly raced back to many nights of 
love, of a pleasantly-scented concubine clutched in his arms.  Now the maid 
of Damascus began to push herself with little lurches, supporting her lover's 
advance with her own, until she felt a little tear of pain deep inside.

	"I. . ." gasped Hassan beneath her, ". . . I have taken your 
maidenhead!  Praise be to Allah!  I am the first."

	To Ali, the conquest of her hymen was startling.  It was, as she had 
been forewarned, like the Fruit passing down her throat.

	Hassan's movements immediately grew bolder, as if he had made the 
effortless transition from a petitioner to a master.  Was this part of the 
Knowledge, some of the magic released by the breaking of the seal?  And 
was it only Hassan?  Did not Ali, too, experience a sudden sense of change?  
A sense of belonging in a very real and immediate way?  

	Ali instinctively opened her knees, and the work which they were 
both about was eased.  So engaged were the couple that neither noticed the 
door opening behind them, and then closing of itself.  If more alert, they 
might have wondered whether Shaitan himself had not stepped through the 
portal, to spy upon some evil work of his in the process of accomplishment.

	 Full entry.  Hassan's throaty vocalizations rose from a murmur to a 
yell.  Ali, too, acknowledged with a groan the solidness of his pelvic bones 
slamming against the soft cushion of her Mons Venus.

	The Syrian commenced to move with increasing power and his grip 
upon her thighs helped to synchronize his forward drives with hers.  The 
interior friction seemed to set Ali's every nerve ending aflame.  Was this the 
experience of Woman? she wondered.  Was it this ecstasy that made so many 
of them so contented with their lot?

	"Move, experience, enjoy," whispered her ghostly advisor.  "Eat of 
the Fruit; make it part of you."

	Ali's breath came roughly.  Her hip motions had fallen into a natural 
rhythm.  This rapidly evolved from a simple backward-forward gyration, to a 
sinuous flow, like waves striking upon a beach, sweeping her mind and soul 
away.  The wild copulation sent shivers of pleasure though every particle of 
the prince's body.

	"Move, Ali.  Just one more thrust, and one more after that.  Your 
loins are starved; you have been too long denied.  Move, become part of his 
body.  Let your need be the whip upon your buttocks.  Your need is your 
master, you are its passionate slave.  You cannot stop serving the man's 
pleasure.  Submitting to his mastery is all that you ever want to do, forever."

	Her thrusts, like her throes, had grown wild.  But because, or in spite 
of, that, Ali suddenly remembered to be afraid.  What was she daring with 
their frenzied coupling?  If Hassan should not be absolutely spent, but had 
even one drop of seed remaining -- and he might, for he had demonstrated a 
virility which had astonished her -- she was in terrible danger.  What agony 
to be condemned to womanhood forever while Hassan gave his heart without 
reserve to someone else!  

	But as strong as her fears, her body's need was equally strong.  Ali 
was close to release, close to her long-denied reward, but she also knew that 
she must break away -- at once -- whether Hassan removed his blindfold or 
not.  The price of not doing so was much too high.  

	Her movements had already become discordant, and Hassan sensed 
it.

	But Hassan, refusing to interrupt the building tempo, locked his 
hands about her derriere, holding her firmly in place, moving her as he 
wished her body to move.  Ali felt for the first time his full strength and 
realized with dismay that she was as nothing against power of that 
magnitude.

	The prince's panic grew and Danya's words, whatever they were, 
were drowned out by the frantic need to rebel.  She was on the verge of 
shouting, "Stop!" when Hassan cried:

	"I'm fucking you, Ali!  Blessed God, I am fucking my sweet Ali!  
Take my seed and let it fill you!  Let me keep you forever!"

	Astonishment staggered Ali.  What should she do?  Escape or 
submission?  Had Hassan really declared his love for her?  She cast her eyes 
up to heaven, gasping, "Allah!  I don't know what to do!  What fate have you 
cut for me?!"

	At that instant Hassan released a mighty surge and the heated flood 
touched off a wild orgasmic response in Ali.  She shrieked into the night as 
spurt after spurt filled her womanly recesses, and mixed with the red blood of 
her defloration.

	The shock was great, but her ecstasy was the touch of Allah.  It was 
nothing less than the blessing which the Merciful had placed upon one who 
considered herself an unworthy sinner.  


	 Chapter Nine

		 Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
 		 To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire, 
		 Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
 		 Re-mould it nearer to the heart's desire!

 	Ali fell forward and wrapped her arms around Hassan's neck.  The 
warrior, half-strangled, pushed her away and with a concomitant motion tore 
off his blindfold.  "Let go of me, trollop!  Would you choke me to death?!"

	His bed-mate cringed.  "Don't call me that, Hassan.  I've done you 
wrong, but out of love for you.  Please forgive me."

	"Ali?"  

	Hassan's head leaped up from its pillow.  " -- Ali!!"

	"Y-Yes," she nodded with a crushed smile.

	Hassan's face was a map of confusion.  "Was it you with whom I --"

	She reached out and tremblingly touched his arm.  "I deceived you.  
Do not hate me."

	Hassan rolled out of reach, swung his legs to the floor, and teetered 
on the edge of the bed.  His mouth gaped, but he couldn't speak.

	"I came to you because -- because I needed you," Ali pleaded.  "If 
you have spoken true when you held me, then you love me also.  Perhaps it 
is the will of Allah.  I hope that that is true."  Then she added?  "What can 
occur if is not the will of the All-Wise?"

	"Ali, do you realize what you have done?!" Hassan jabbered.  " -- 
Oh, merciful God, what have I done to you?!"

	"Nothing," she said anxiously, sitting up.  "Put the blame upon me, 
or upon fate.  But do not blame yourself, my dear friend, for you have done 
no wrong."

	"It was you to whom I said all those things?" he asked, dismayed.

	She shrugged sheepishly.  "Your words brought me great joy."  
Again she reached out and this time touched his hand.

	Hassan pulled away.  "We are accursed, both of God and --"

	Suddenly, a low laugh sounded.  Hassan broke off in mid-sentence 
and looked wildly about.  Was there a living witness to this moment of his 
greatest shame?  But though he scanned every cranny, there was nothing to 
be seen.

	"There is an invisible djinn in this room!" he declared fiercely.  "Oh, 
you foul spirit, you thing of mischief!  It was your magicks who brought us 
to grief, was it not?!"

	He scooped up his scimitar and began waving it about the room.  "I 
will cleave thy black, horned head from thy shaggy shoulders, O Djinn, and 
send thee back to Shaitan where your ilk belongs!"

	The whirring edge came very close to Yusuf's nose and, in dodging 
back, the old man slipped upon the silk shawl which Ali had carelessly 
discarded.  In striking the carpet with a loud thump, the Gem of Invisibility 
jarred from his hand and rolled away under the furniture.  

	Hassan gasped to see the notorious wizard of Damascus appear out of 
thin air.

	"Foul fiend, so you take a familiar guise, do you?  Yet I am not 
deceived.  I shall sever you in twain despite your cunning glamours."  He 
raised the sword to strike.

	"Mercy, Lord Hassan!" Yusuf cried out in his native Arabic.

	"So, monster, you speak the tongue of Mohammed!" the warrior 
exclaimed, delaying the killing stroke.  "Are you a djinn, truly, or just a 
man?"

	"Would you let a djinn go free?"

	"Fool!  I would cut off a djinn's head!"

	"Then I am a man, one well-known to you, and I humbly beg the 
noble lord for clemency!"

	"Yusuf!" gasped Hassan.  "If it is you, old trickster, what are you 
doing here?!"  

	The abacus of Hassan's mind added the clues up rapidly and then he 
glanced back at Ali.  "I believe that we have found your secret enemy, my -- 
my, friend!  It makes sense!  This one was long absent from Damascus, and 
then he was said to have reappeared just before you were enchanted.  Oh, 
why did Allah blind us to the truth?!"  He turned back to the magician in cold 
fury.  "Speak, old dog, why have you done this?"

	"I have done nothing," whined the conspirator.

	Hassan seized him by the beard.  "Tell that to the Sultan of Marshan, 
O wind from a donkey!  That noble sovereign shall surely cast you into the 
accursed fountain.  You will know for yourself the foul fate which your mad 
spite has doomed your prince to!"

	"Pity, Lord!  I do not hate our noble prince and wish him no harm.  I 
was but a cat's paw."

	Ali sprang out of bed, holding up a sheet to conceal her nakedness.  
"That makes sense, Hassan.  What personal grudge should this man bear me?  
Speak, Yusuf, who sent you?!"

	"I dare not say . . ." the sorcerer demurred.

	"You dare not be silent!" warned Hassan.  "Speak or you shall tell 
your tale, or not if you prefer, to the law-givers of the sultan!  If you would 
spare yourself that, tell me first how you rendered yourself unseeable!"  He 
pressed his sword-point to the old man's throat.

	The deadly threat was too much for the timid old man, and Yusuf was 
soon babbling out the entire story of the accursed bath, the magical gem, and 
how Achmed had sent him hither with "Maiden's Ruin."

		#

	"So Achmed was behind this!" exclaimed the princess as she fingered 
the magical gem.  "My father's throne is in danger!  -- And what if the foul 
conspirator also has designs to marry my sister?!"

	"We should have guessed the culprit's identity long before this!" 
Hassan ruminated bitterly.  "He has always hated you, Ali.  Now we know 
the reason!  You have always stood in the way of his own ambitions."  The 
warrior seized Yusuf and shook him hard.  "Sorcerer, name your death!"

	Ali restrained her friend.  "Be easy, Hassan.  I know that this man 
acted out of greed and a craven fear of his master, but perhaps he has only 
acted as the tool of fate."

	Hassan scowled.  "What are you saying?"

	She grimaced, as if with a toothache.  "I know not what myself.  All I 
know is that I do not hate anyone for what has befallen me.  It has come to 
me like a new birth, and I do not despise the doctor who has pulled me into 
it.  I would not have the blood of this old schemer upon my hands, as long as 
he assists us in thwarting Achmed's cruel plot."

	"I could not forebear from killing him myself, but for your sake I will 
give the scoundrel back his worthless life."  

	Hassan again faced the wizard darkly:  "Understand, fool?  You are 
the goldfish we need to catch the larger carp.  Pledge to return with us to 
Damascus while giving us no trouble upon the road, and we shall spare you 
the justice of Marshan.  We shall also request the emir's clemency for you 
after you name Achmed the traitor, though His Majesty's anger will be 
boundless against both you and us."

	"I will tell the noble emir all, O Wise Youth," the magician replied 
obsequiously.  At that moment a probable execution several months hence did 
not seem half so daunting as a dip into the magic pool.

	"That is good," Ali acknowledged with a thoughtful nod.  "Let our 
captain keep him under guard until we are ready to return home.  But for 
now, Hassan, we must talk over important matters, and then, with the 
dawning, I must go to the fountain."

	Hassan assumed an uncomprehending stare.  "I do not understand.  
What good can the fountain do you now, if the legends be true?"

	"I must tell my father that I bathed in the fountain, for that is the 
reason for which he dispatched me to Marshan.  If the remedy fails, then it 
will be from my own folly and the will of Allah, not my disobedience."

	Worry clouded Hassan's handsome visage.  "Ali, forgive me, but my 
concern is not that the remedy might fail, but that it shall succeed only too 
well.  I am selfish, but --"

	She met his eyes with an uncertain smile.  "My thoughts were in 
tumult when I took your seed, it is true.  Was I willing or no, I cannot recall.  
But is there a stricture of either man or magic that prevents one who is cursed 
by the fountain from making love once more in a happier state of mind before 
she bathes?"

	Hassan stood stupefied.  "Ali, are you certain?  You would be giving 
up so much.  If there remains even the remote possibility that you may yet 
reverse this strange fate -- ?"

 	The princess put her arms around him, letting the sheet collapse into a 
soft pile at her feet.  Her eyes shone brightly and bravely in the half-light.  "I 
am certain of nothing, except that I love you and do not want to cease loving 
you.  I know not what lies beyond the next portal, but I crave to receive all 
that loving you might bring to me, and to make you rich with the love I 
would give to you in return.  I am full of dread, it is true, but happiness to me 
has never meant becoming the husband of Badiat, nor even becoming a 
sovereign who is in fact only a prisoner to the needs of his kingdom."

	Hassan reached out, took Ali by the waist, and drew her face close to 
his.  "I do not believe that either of those things would make me happy 
either," he sighed softly into her ear.  "Nor am I any longer content to wait 
for my father to choose a daughter-in-law who satisfies him and not me."

	The princess placed her hands upon his broad shoulders and met his 
glance with chin up.  "Then we both must have the courage to choose 
happiness over duty."

	"It is your courage which holds me in awe," the warrior replied.  His 
mouth began to drift toward hers.

	"If she is so happy," Yusuf broke in hopefully, "you have me to 
credit.  Why not let me go in just reward?" 

	Rudely reminded of the magician's presence, Ali sntached up the 
sheet and clutched it before her for modesty; Hassan stepped toward the old 
man angrily.  "Be silent, fool," he warned.  "You are fortunate that Ali deigns 
to show you mercy."

	Yusuf shook his head.  He would have to settle for that.  

	For the present, at least.

		 #

	Scheherazade says: 

		"Ali bathed in the waters of the magic fountain thereafter, but 
	emerged still wearing the beguiling shape of her sister Ayeesha.  It 
	will not be wrong to say that neither Ali nor Hassan suffered great 
	remorse from this disappointment.  

		"Ali deigned to purchase serving maids for her homeward 
	journey.  For this reason, the princess inquired of Danya and Katya if 
	they might not desire to serve her in this regard.  In return, Ali 
	promised that each should be freed immediately in Damascus and kept 
	in honorable appointments all the years of their lives.  

		"Katya was eager, but Danya held herself aloof for a short 
	while, until exacting a promise from Ali that she should be appointed 
	a free whip-mistress in the royal harem.  

		"The sultan of Marshan was loath to lose the beautiful Danya, 
	but the dancing girl now lay claim to the boon promised her only days 
	before.  So her lord consented to sell her, albeit reluctantly.  

		"By the time the royal train had wound its weary way back to 
	glorious Damascus, the two slave girls knew little that Ali did not also 
	share.  But one shadow still loomed over the happiness of Ali and 
	Hassan, and that was the certain wrath of the emir which they must 
	face when the glorious minarets of Damascus loomed slenderly on the 
	plain of Syria."

		 #

	Emir Haroon paced back and forth in the audience chamber while 
Hassan and Ali looked on apprehensively.

	"This is a disaster!" wailed the emir, turning fiercely upon his 
erstwhile son.  "Tell me who outraged you, Ali!  Not all the wastes of 
Khwarizm shall hide him from my judgment!"

	Hassan stepped forward, like a man striding the steps of his own 
gallows.  "We never intended to deceive you, Sire.  No stranger and no 
enemy did Ali wrong.  Your son's fate is my responsibility."

	The monarch stared.  "What are you saying, Hassan?  In what way 
were you responsible?"

	Shoulders back, Hassan, with all the fatalistic courage of his race, 
confessed:  "I have made love to Ali, Sire.  I have done this because I adore 
her above all other women upon the face of the earth."

	For an instant Haroon seemed not able to comprehend, then rage rose 
like bile to this throat and he shouted:  "Traitor!  You will be castrated and 
your diced testicles stuffed down your throat!"

	Ali stepped forward and interposed herself between her father and her 
lover.  "No, Father!  Spare him!  I was much more responsible than he was!"

	"Why should I spare him?" demanded Haroon.  "He has taken away 
my son, my heir --"

	"It was the judgment of Allah, Father," the maid pleaded.  "If Hassan 
was God's agent in taking something precious from you, Great Sovereign, 
he is also God's tool in giving you back something even more precious."

	"What could be more precious?!" barked the emir, unmollified.

	"-- A grandchild!" Ali explained with an abashed smile.  

	She opened her voluminous gown to display her gravid belly.  
Haroon stumbled back upon his chair.

	"A curse has fallen upon our house," the old man cried, clawing his 
face, "and we are naught but ghosts fluttering to perdition."

	#

 	In the harem not long afterwards, Ali's sister Ayeesha and his 
betrothed lay resting side by side.

	"It has been so many months," lamented Ayeesha.  "I fear that Ali 
must have fallen prey to bandits, or sand storms."

	"I hope he never returns," Badiat remarked with a far-off look.

	Ayeesha sat up, aghast.

	"How can you say that?"

	The Edessan touched her companion's cheek.  "If he returns, it means 
we two must be parted."

	"Badiat!  I love him!"

	"And I love you, Ayeesha.  For your sake, as Allah knows, I wish no 
ill to those you love.  But you are as aware as I that your brother stands 
between us."

	"He should so stand!  It is his right!  I never intended for this to 
happen."

	Badiat smiled coaxingly.  "We do not do wrong, precious.  It 
happens all the time.  How else can women in harems endure?"

	Stung, Ayeesha shook her head fiercely.  "This has been no empty 
dalliance to pass the time, Badiat -- at least not for me."

	Now Badiat also sat up.  "It is not for me, either!  How can you think 
otherwise?!

	"All I think -- all I know -- is that I love you."

	Leaning closer, Badiat kissed Ayeesha on the lips.  Haroon's 
daughter slipped her arms around her companion, dropped them to her hips, 
then drew the Edessan against herself.

	The soft pad of satin slippers alerted the guilty girls, both of whom 
sprang up swiftly, robing themselves hastily.

	One of the eunuch attendants entered and bowed, saying:  "Princess 
Ayeesha.  A visitor.  She claims to have news concerning your brother."

	"About Ali?!" the princess exclaimed.  She glanced at Badiat; each 
bore an expression of dismay, but the sources of their fear were very 
different.  

	Ayeesha found three women awaiting her in the designated chamber.  
Two were unveiled strangers whom she took for slaves, but there was also a 
third -- a young-seeming woman who wore a saltah of velvet, embroidered 
with colored silk.   Already the latter's hands were rising to unfix her 
gossamer veil.  As Ayeesha recognized the face of Ali unrestored, an acute 
pain registered in her cast.

	"Dear Ali," she moaned softly and stepped with burning eyes into her 
brother's waiting embrace.  

	"Ali!" she gasped as she discovered firmness under the other's 
jubbeh.  She stood back and saw that her sibling's expression was serious 
but otherwise mild.  Ayeesha hesitantly placed her fingers upon the swollen 
evidence.

	"Do not be alarmed," said Ali with a woebegone smile, "and do not 
think you need pity me."  She took Ayeesha's hands firmly in her own.  "I 
did not plan this, Allah knows, but our destiny is ever beyond our own 
control.  It may be that Haroon's grandchild is destined for great deeds."  She 
shrugged.  "And so we bow to fate and accept.  The more this child grows, 
the greater is my joy, and Hassan's joy, that he is there."  

	"Hassan?" Ayeesha muttered, hoping that she misunderstood.  

	"It is a long tale to tell."

	And she told it all.

		 #

	Scheherazade says:

		"Mahmood had learned of Yusuf's capture in Marshan 
	and so, despairing of his master's rescue, returned with all possible 
	haste to Damascus.

		"There, in faithful duty to his paymaster Achmed, Mahmood 
	imparted the warning of Ali's imminent return.  The vizier did not 
	panic, but instead planned to send his guards to intercept the royal 
	party and slay all within it.  But before he had time to act, word came 
	that Hassan and Ali were already within the city.  

		"Assassination no longer an option, Achmed resigned himself 
	to flight and exile.  But all this while, Mahmood had persistently hung 
	at the vizier's elbow."

		#

	"I have no time for you, bodyguard," declared the harried Achmed.  
"What do you want?  To take service with me now that your master is dead or 
in chains?"

	Mahmood shook his head.  "No, my lord, hereafter I would be own 
man.  For fair service given, Great One, I would claim the girl whom you 
once did promise me!"

	"Service?" Achmed cried.  "Thanks to that fool Yusuf I am a ruined 
man!"

	Mahmood raised his turbaned head proudly.  "That is not through any 
fault of mine!  I have done all which was required of me, and have brought 
the warning which may save your life.  Who would gainsay my right to be 
paid?!"

	"Eleebs yenik!" Achmed snarled, cursing Mahmood to the devil.  He 
decided to settle with the Egyptian, lest the man try to claim the reward that 
Haroon was certain to place upon his head.   "I have no time to dispute with 
you," the official said, turning in exasperation to his attendant.  "Slave, take 
this lout to the harem-keeper and tell him from me to surrender any girl whom 
the man pleases to take."  He swung back toward Mahmood.  "Small use 
such baggage will be to me after this day!  Now, both of you, begone!"

	As Mahmood departed on the heels of the slave, the vizier picked up 
his satchel of gold and jewels and made to escape by way of the rear exit.  He 
intended to go without guards, for hired men-at-arms were more likely than 
the bodyguard even to strike him down for gold when his back was turned.  

	The grandee drew up short as the door opened to reveal the angry face 
of one who hated him -- Lord Hassan.

	"Hold, villain!" the nobleman warned with sword drawn.

	Achmed sprang back laughing bitterly.  "Hold?  For what, Hassan?  
Torture and death?"  He cast aside his burden and drew forth the gleaming 
blade at his side.  "Rather would I die with a sword in my hand!"

	The far-traveled warrior advanced alertly into the room.  "As you 
prefer." 

	With a yell of defiance, Achmed struck first.  The servants 
thereabouts fled in terror as the chamber rang with Damascus steel.  Hassan, 
no mean fighter himself, was surprised by Achmed's skill.  "You fence well 
for a knave!" he growled.

	Achmed vaunted:  "While you have been riding down Bedouin scum, 
I have been training with Syria's greatest swordsmen!"

	"Not so, scoundrel!  I am the best swordsman in Syria!" Hassan 
declared, pressing his attack.  

	Guards hurried into the room, drawn by the clangor, but Hassan 
warned them off:  "I am here with a royal troop to arrest the traitor Achmed.  
Raise a blade in his defense at the peril of your own necks!"

	"Don't listen to him!" Achmed cried.  "Kill him."

	Perhaps because they had no deep love for the man who paid their 
wage, or perhaps because the courtyard did indeed teem with royal 
guardsmen, the warriors lowered their blades and shrank away.

	Achmed fought bitterly for his life thereafter, while Hassan did 
likewise for the honor of his lady.  Allah alone may know which of the 
combatants might have prevailed had the vizier not inadvertently stepped over 
the edge of the fishpond and fallen helplessly into the water.  

	Hassan leaped in and placed the point of his scimitar against 
Achmed's neck, thereby forcing him to drop his sword.

	"Kill me swiftly, dog.  For the sake of my noble father's name, for 
mercy and honor, let me die at your hands rather than endure the infamy of a 
public execution."

	Hassan scabbarded his weapon, took a vial from his scrip, and 
unstopped it as he spoke:

	"You are a miscreant unworthy of chivalry, Achmed.  But Ali and I 
asked and received permission of the emir to choose the form of your 
punishment.  If permitting you to live is mercy, so be it."  He poured the 
contents of the bottle into the pond.

	So swiftly did the change come that even Hassan, who had seen the 
magic at work in Marshan, was amazed.  "Ah, excellent!" he laughed.

	The girl who now occupied Achmed's robes seemed almost lost in 
their volume, but her indignant squeals accurately defined her sex though her 
garments did not.

	"I'll kill you for this," the ill-dressed maid shrilled as she snatched for 
her dropped sword.  It was a futile gesture, of course, and perhaps she only 
desired that her enemy would behead her for the attempt.  Instead, Hassan 
merely kicked the weapon out of reach.

	"No one shall know of your terrible crime," Hassan informed her.  "It 
will be put about that Ali perished of fever in a distant land, Achmed, and that 
you yourself fled away into oblivion after the discovery of some petty 
embezzlement.  Of course, if you instead desire that your fate be generally 
known, it is up to you."

	With a cry of fury, Achmed dipped an arm into the water and 
splashed a handful full of it into Hassan's face.

	"Hah, dog!" she exulted.  "Now you will be as weak as I, and I will 
kill you with pleasure!"

	But Hassan shoved her back as she tried to rise.  To her 
bewilderment, Hassan remained unchanged.

	"The magic is spent upon its first victim, unless it is refreshed," the 
warrior explained while mopping his face.  "You shall remain as you are, for 
the additional water that Ali and I brought back from Marshan for possible 
future use is under close guard and you shall not have it."

	The warrior now reached down and snatched off Achmed's turban, 
permitting her long blonde hair to spill out.  "You are a pretty one," Hassan 
observed grinning, "or you will be once you are dried and groomed as befits 
your sex."  

	Just then Mongi, Achmed's senior steward, entered, anxious to learn 
whether his master had been undone by the cacophonous swordplay.

	"Sire, what is happening?" the man asked of Hassan, whose familiar 
face he knew on sight.

	Achmed looked at the intruder intending to shout, but held her tongue 
at the last instant.  What might she say that would be believed?  And even if 
he believed, what would Mongi do that the guards had been unwilling to do?

	Hassan had a sudden inspiration.  "Have you seen this girl before?"   

	"Why, yes, Lord.  She is Sheba, the master's favorite."

	"Excellent," Hassan replied.  "Go now!  Tell everyone that your 
master Achmed has eluded me.  If found, he will be summarily killed and his 
slayer shall receive a great reward."

	Surprised at this unexpected news, but not much upset, the steward 
bowed and withdrew.  Achmed glared up at her conqueror, trying to read the 
scheme which she saw registered in his cast.

	"Achmed," he began, "what shall I do with you now?"

	She arched her neck proudly.  "If my dreams have perished, I do not 
fear death, Hassan.  Only be quick about it and do not taunt me!"

	"As I have said, I do not want your life, Achmed.  I only want to stop 
you from harming others."

	Achmed, who only desired to perish immediately and cleanly, 
exploded.  "Fool!  You have not seen true harm as yet!  I shall be restored, 
even if I must go all the way to Marshan!"

	Hassan shook his head.  "There are bandits on the road to Marshan, 
and it is a dangerous trek for one lone wench.  Even if you should instead 
approach a caravan for passage, its master will doubtless put you in chains 
and trade you away for camel fodder."

	"Dog!" the fallen vizier shrilled, trying to provoke her enemy to 
homicide.  "I will be avenged!  When I am a man again, I will go to the Turks 
and the Mongols and arouse them against the city of Damascus!"

	"Do not make me angry, Achmed!"

	"I will turn the city over to ten days of looting!"

	Hassan clenched his hilt.  "I warn you --!" 

	"I will have you dragged to death behind wild horses!  I will throw 
your pretty Ali to the army!  Ah, yes, that's it -- I will take special pleasure in 
avenging my grief upon your Prince Ali."

	Provoked by such insolence, Hassan opened the second vial which he 
carried.  Reaching down, he dragged the girl from the fishpond, and then 
stomped upon her foot to make her yowl in pain.  When her mouth was full-
open, Hassan shoved the bottleneck into it.  Achmed fought back, tried hard 
to spit it out its gurgling discharge, but a slap on the back compelled her to 
swallow.

	"What --?!  Poison?!" she cried, coughing and gasping.

	Before he answered, Hassan cast his cloak over the maid's head, 
effectively blinding her.  "They call it 'Maiden's Ruin,'" he explained as she 
struggled instinctively against the smothering folds.  "I had not been certain 
that it would be necessary to deal with you so harshly, but I was wrong.  
You show no humility even when faced with utter defeat, and therefore you 
must be given something else to think about rather than hatred and revenge."

	The girl continued clawing at the enveloping fabric, but Hassan 
gripped her firmly.  "Do not tear the mask away," he warned, "or you will be 
possessed by a passionate desire for the first man whom you see, be he lord 
or beggar."  

	Achmed quelled her struggle, knowing the truth which lay behind the 
threat.  At that point, the warrior made a blindfold of his kerchief and reached 
under the cloak to put it in place.  Once this was accomplished, he pulled the 
cape from her, stripped her naked despite the girl's protests, and put her 
inside a large chest decorated with intracate carving.  He closed but did not 
lock it.

	"Beware, Achmed.  The first man who removes your blindfold will 
be the fortunate one whom you shall love to distraction."  Achmed's muffled 
protests quieted as the magnitude of her dilemma overcame her, and Hassan 
stepped out into the corridor exit to hail a servant.

	"Send for the harem girl Sheba!  -- And be quick about it!" he 
commanded.  The man bowed deeply and hurried away.

	 Before long, the slave Sheba was ushered into the room.  Hassan sat 
down upon the chest wherein Achmed was imprisoned and nodded approval 
at her exquisite features; she was indeed the very image of the transformed 
vizier.

 	"The traitor Achmed has fled in fear of the emir's judgment," he 
informed the concubine.  "He shall not return, and so you may be set free.  
Do you have any family to return to?"

	"Yes, my lord!" she replied, amazed and excited.  "My village lies not 
far south of here.  I was taken from it by tax collectors only last year."

	"I act with the authority of the emir," said Hassan, "to settle 
Achmed's remaining affairs.  It would please me to send you back to your 
loved ones."  He pointed to the rear door.  "Go and find the royal captain at 
the foot of the stairs.  Tell him to place you under the protection of Lord 
Hassan."

	When the concubine had gone on her way, Hassan summoned 
additional servants and told them that he had placed Sheba into the trunk and 
desired that both it and her would be taken back to the women's quarters.  
They were to put the chest in a private place and not to open it.  Nonetheless, 
the maid should be permitted to exit it whenever she pleased.  These odd 
instructions confused the servants greatly, but they were not totally 
unacquainted with the aristocracy's strange games of passion.

	For his own part, Hassan felt satisfied that Achmed would be taken 
for Sheba and treated accordingly hereafter.  She would be harmless enough, 
obsessed by a desire for sex, slavery, and love.  He wondered who exactly 
would be the recipient of her passion.  The warrior gave the question a 
dismissing shrug.  It did not really matter whom Achmed might love, just so 
long it was not him.  

	The settlement of Achmed's outstanding affairs could wait until later, 
he knew, and so he returned to his troop.  He quickly departed the vizier's 
courtyard riding at their head, taking the real Sheba with him.  

		

	Ali had told Ayeesha all, and had even demonstrated the fabulous 
Gem of Invisibility for her entertainment.  Full of wonder, Ayeesha had 
returned to her own quarters afterwards to ponder her brother's strange 
kismet.  But soon a strange idea took possession of her.  

	Accordingly, she rested until the afternoon nap time, the hour at when 
she knew that Ali was wont to sleep soundly.  Then, when the time was ripe, 
she stole back into the guest apartment and took the precious gem from Ali's 
belongings.  

	Invoking the miraculous power of the stone, Ayeesha slipped out of 
the women's quarters unseen.  She made swift passage to her father's 
dungeon, easily avoiding the sentries, and lifted the keys from the ring in the 
guard room.  It required only some little effort after that to locate what she 
sought: the cell wherein Yusuf was chained.  

	The door opening of itself surprised the morose old wizard, but not 
so much as seeing Ayeesha materialize before his eyes.  Before he could say 
a word of wonder or give alarm, she put a knife to his heart.

	"Ali!  Did you spare me in Marshan only to murder me now?  Did I 
not accuse Achmed before the emir, just as you bade me to do?"  At that 
instant he noticed that this Ali did not look exactly the same as earlier that 
day.  "You have your figure back!  Oh, my poor lad!  Did you lose the 
child?"

	"Fool!  It is me, Ayeesha."

	"Ayeesha?"  He blinked in confusion, then recalled that the girl Katya 
had once mentioned that Ali was supposed to resemble his sister --

	"Be silent!  Ali has told me all you have done!  -- You have destroyed 
our dynasty, but before it falls I see no reason not to take what I most want!"

	"What do you want from me?" the magician asked through dry lips.

	She explained.

	He slapped his forehead in dismay.  "Your father would tear me into 
pieces!"

	"He may do so anyway, for I know that he must be terribly wrought 
with you.  But do what I ask, and I will release you outside.  Be swift or 
clever after that and you may save your worthless life!"

	"Agreed!" The sorcerer held his manacles up eagerly.  "Quickly, 
Princess --!"  

	Satisfied, Ayeesha unlocked his fetters, saying:  "You will come with 
me, back to your workshop.  Attempt to escape and you shall die!"

	"How shall we win free?  The guards are outside!" he reminded her.

	She displayed the Gem of Invisibility.  We shall touch it together!  
But should you attempt to take it from me, I will shout for the guards, if I do 
not gut you first!"

	"Ah, yes," grinned the magician sheepishly.  "You are clever as well 
as audacious, my beauty."

		#

	Achmed had been taken in the chest to the women's quarters, just as 
Hassan had demanded.  Fearful of succumbing to an unwanted romance, she 
had lain quiet until all outside was silent.  Then she pushed the lip open and 
found that she was in a storeroom.  Immediately seeking a route of escape, 
she saw that a meshed grate upon the sole window barred her exit.  Only then 
did she pause to regard her strange new body and touch herself with loathing.

	So much had happened so swiftly that it made her head spin.  A plan!  
She needed a plan.  First the spell of Maiden's Ruin had to be lifted, she 
knew, enforced love and passion might cause her to lose the possibility for 
recouping her natural form.  It would take a wizard to nullify the effects of 
Maiden's Ruin, surely.  There were several such whom she knew, or knew 
of, in Damascus.  Alas, the one who would serve her needs best, Yusuf, 
must have been at this moment confined to the dungeons of the palace.  
Confined, that is, if his head had not already been separated from his fat 
body.  Could she search his workshop for some vial of the magical fountain 
water which might still remain there?  That course was her best chance for 
salvation, she decided.

	Achmed inspected the window grate, but saw no means to remove it 
without tools.  Of course there would be no tools to be had; seraglios were 
always designed to keep their inmates from straying.  Suddenly, footsteps 
sounded behind the door.  She covered her eyes until the door opened and a 
matron spoke.  "Sheba!  So here you are, bad girl!  It is for you that the 
warrior is searching.  With the blonde hair he describes it can be no other."

	Achmed opened her eyes.  "Zagiba," she yammered, "I must leave 
this place.  You must help me!"

	"Are you mad, girl?" the woman replied, amazed.  "Even if the master 
is fallen, we must keep to our allotted places until we are disposed of to the 
emir's pleasure."  She turned and shouted, "The one we have sought is in 
here!"

	Helpers came and compelled Achmed to dress in a costume of the 
harem -- a loose white blouse and patterned skirt of Sudanese style, set off by 
red leather shoes and large earrings.  Once she was made presentable, they 
conveyed her to a receiving room where male visitors were permitted.  
Though her eyes had remained stubbornly shut thus far, she felt a looming 
presence in the chamber even before that presence spoke.

	"Yes, it is you, my beauty.  I have waited a long time," a man 
rumbled.  "Approach me!"

	Achmed was shoved forward and the speaking man reached out and 
touched her arm.

	"Ah, your body is even more perfect than I have imagined --" he said, 
"-- and I have passed many long hours imagining."

	Suddenly Achmed recognized the deep, gravel voice.  It was 
Mahmood, Yusuf's bodyguard!  A jolt of hope and confusion lanced through 
her; she did not know whether to ask for his help or to flee blindly.  Yet was 
it not possible that Mahmood knew his way around his former master's 
workshop and could therefore say exactly where his supply of the magical 
water was kept?

	"Why will you not look at me, my sweet?"

	A cunning answer occurred to her.  "I -- I would desire to be alone 
with thee, my new master, the first time that I see thy face."

	The mighty man boomed:  "By Allah, that is fit! -- You of the harem, 
leave us two alone!"

	The attendants departed, and Mahmood put one arm lightly around 
her raised her chin with his free hand.  "Now open thy beautiful eyes!"

	"No -- we must talk first!"

	"Talk?  You are a strange wench!  Before we talk there is something 
else I yearn to do!"  He slammed a powerful kiss across her mouth.  The 
sudden assault so startled Achmed that her eyes popped open -- and she 
found herself staring into the dark, commanding orbs of the mighty Egyptian 
bodyguard.

	A shiver coursed through her body and she staggered out of his grip.

	"Your eyes are as pretty as I remembered," the Egyptian remarked.  
"Whatever Hassan wanted with you, I am glad that he did not claim you for 
himself.  There is no other in Damascus whom I desire so much."

	Her mind awhirl, Achmed swallowed hard and pressed back against 
the chamber wall, unsure of what to do.

	"First, I must place a device upon your lovely throat, to mark you 
mine, as they do in the East."  

	Achmed stared aghast at the object in the warrior's large hands.  It 
was a broad band of leather with a ring in front -- for chaining or leashing.  
She backed to the rear of the chamber, her bared teeth warning him off.  
Undaunted, Mahmood sprang forward, seized her, and locked the circlet 
about her throat.  

	"We cannot tarry here;" he said, "you will come to me.  Our caravan 
leaves at dawn."  Mahmood knew that he must take his woman and flee the 
city as soon as possible.  Even though Hassan and Ali did not know him by 
sight, Yusuf might have named him for a fellow conspirator and given the 
royal guard his description. 

	"No!" cried Achmed, breaking free and trying to duck under his 
groping arms.  Before she won clear, the big man agilely swept her off her 
feet and slung her over his shoulder.  As he bore her away, she kicked, and 
beat upon his massive back with her fists, but she might as well have been 
pounding upon a mountainside.

	"You are a caracal, truly," he laughed.  "But I shall soon enough 
make thee a purring house cat!"

		#

	Ayeesha, shortly before Achmed's capture by Mahmood, had 
returned to the harem and lurked near the bathing room until it was empty.  
She then stripped herself naked and poured the flask which she had acquired 
from Yusuf into the scented water.  Finally, with a breathless prayer, she 
leaped into the pool.  

	At that moment, an attendant entered and seeing the one in the pool, 
froze.

	"What rogue are you?" the eunuch demanded.  "-- Wait, I know your 
face.  You are Prince Ali!"

	"What?" muttered Ayeesha, touching her -- now his -- visage in 
wonderment.  He reached for the hand mirror which lay upon the coping tiles 
beside him.

	I  *am* Prince Ali! he thought, amazed.  Yet, as Ayeesha considered 
the matter, it all seemed logical.  Had he ever known a man more beautiful 
and alluring than his brother?  Ali had ever been the ideal by which all other 
men, those few men whom Ayeesha had been permitted to see, were 
measured.  

	The princess looked up, stammering:  "Ah -- ah, these are my father's 
rooms; I have the right to be here.  I have already visited my sister and she 
urged me to -- to talk with Princess Badiat about our impending wedding.  
Fetch her to me at once, slave!"

	The man ran away and moments later the soft padding of slippers 
were heard on the carpet of the next room.  Then the beautiful Badiat 
appeared in the archway.

	"Princess," Ayeesha grinned from the water.

	The Edessan regarded him coldly.  "I was told to report to your 
presence."  She tossed her head.  "The man commands and the woman 
obeys.  It is a simple thing."

	"Love is never that simple, my precious," Ayeesha replied coaxingly.

	"How can you love me?" Badiat demanded with a moue.  "You 
hurried away from Damascus as soon as I arrived, and were gone for 
months."

	Ayeesha shook his head.  "I was under constraint of which I cannot 
speak.  Yet a day did not pass that I have not thought of you and longed to 
speak with you, as we are speaking now."

	She regarded him curiously.  This Prince Ali was, admittedly, a 
handsome man from the waist-up -- which was all that she could see of him 
for the water.  "How strange.  The more you talk, the more I sense a certain 
familiarness in you."

	"It is said that those born for one another ever react so," the young 
man replied.  "I felt the same when you entered this chamber."

	"Feel as you please about me," she shrugged.  "I am only your slave, 
though you shall call me wife."

	The youth extended a hand toward her.  "I will call you friend, and 
counterpart.  I will call you lover, and mate, but never slave."

	"You shall not have to.  What makes the slave is the way she is 
treated."

	"Beloved, to me you are like a precious treasure."

	"And I shall be locked away like a precious treasure!"

	"Never!  You shall stand at my side always.  Do you suppose that I 
believe myself greater or better than the woman to whom my heart belongs?"

	She looked at him uncertainly, the resentment which she had long-
nursed slipping away.  This was by no means the introduction to Prince Ali 
that Badiat had been expecting.  Far from it.  What strange words he spoke, 
and how much more strange were their sincere undertones.  Was Ali really so 
unlike the other men whom she had known -- her father and brothers, 
principally?

	Thus Badiat regarded the nude Adonis in the bath, wondering what to 
make of him.  Suddenly Ayeesha rose and made to climb from the bath.  The 
Edessan, watching wide-eyed, was even more struck by the perfection of her 
lover's form.

	"Do not!" the princess of Edessa exclaimed.

	Ayeesha settled back into the water, his cheeks warming.  "I forget 
myself, Lady.  I beg your pardon."

	But Badiat was already casting off her own outer garments.  "Ask no 
pardon, for you misunderstand.  I wished only to join you."

	Ayeesha looked up amazed.  Yet, why should that be so?  He knew 
Badiat well -- a woman unlike almost any other whom he had known.  Only 
belatedly did the transformed princess comprehend the danger.

	Before Ayeesha could react, his lover had slipped into the water 
beside him.

	"Badiat, don't!" the false Ali cried when it was already too late.

	"Why?" sputtered the princess, rising nereid-like from her initial 
immersion.  

	"You -- you --" stammered Ali, seeing no change in her form and not 
understanding.

	"Why does my forwardness upset you so much?" she challenged.  "I 
thought it would not if your words of passion be true.  Now I fear that you 
may be like the common run of men after all."  She turned and began to climb 
over the coping.

	Ayeesha reached out to arrest her withdrawal.  "You have not 
changed!  That is what surprises me," he exclaimed.  "Praise be to Allah!"

	"You speak in riddles, my prince," the girl said bemusedly, settling 
back into the pool.

	"When you are near me, I do not care to speak at all."  So saying, he 
drew her up against him, her wet breasts mashing against his bare chest.  Her 
irises as he gazed into them seemed to shimmer in the light of the lamps.  She 
raised her lips invitingly, and Ayeesha pressed his mouth hungrily against 
hers.  


	Chapter Ten

		The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord,
 		That all the misbelieving and black horde 
		Of fears and sorrows that infest the soul 
		Scatters and slays with his enchanted sword.

 	Achmed had kicked and clawed at Mahmood most of the way to the 
caravansary, convincing him that she was of fiery temperament.  To tolerate 
indiscipline in a new slave, he knew, was to let himself in for years of 
insolence and defiance.  For that reason, the Egyptian resolved to waste no 
time in impressing upon the Circassian girl what their respective roles were to 
be.  Fortunately, the intense heat of the late afternoon and her wild struggling 
as he had held her slung over the saddle, had exhausted Achmed, allowing 
him to carry her into the inn easily.  Once behind the locked door of his 
rented room, he cast her down upon the bed and tied her wrists to the 
bedposts before she had time to recover her presence of mind.

	The fallen vizier tugged furiously at her bindings as the Egyptian 
stood over her.

	"You are more like a tiger-cat than a caracal, pretty one," he said.  "If 
you have not learned manners in the house of Achmed, and it appears you 
have not, then you must learn them from me!"

	She yowled her thousandth obscenity at Mahmood, who, shrugging, 
began lustily kissing of her cheeks, lips, and throat.  The bodyguard could 
not for long resist applying his hot, wet osculations to the slave girl's heaving 
bosom.  

	In the midst it all, the girl's gasps started to change in tenor.  As 
Achmed settled, Mahmood changed position and put his fingers under her 
back.  He pushed her billowy blouse up to her neck, thereby baring her 
breasts.  

	"No!" she cried out.

	"I would see the glories that Allah has bestowed upon you," he 
informed her with a breathy murmur.

	"It was not Allah!  It was that damned Hassan!"

	"Hassan?  Did he do injury to thee?"

	"Kill him for me!" she demanded.

	He grinned.  "Someday, perhaps, if you love me with sweet 
devotion."

	"Kill him, then kill yourself!"

	He shook his head.  Who might have believed that the Circassian's 
gentle beauty concealed the spirit of a fiery virago.  More determined than 
ever to tame her, he pressed his face to her lush breasts, so firm, but so 
yielding to pressure, and nuzzled them strongly.  His beard and moustache 
tickled Achmed beyond enduring and, in her writhing, she rained a thousand 
curses down upon Hassan's head.

	Mahmood proceeded to lap her pert mammillae with his tongue, and 
when he had driven his captive almost to distraction by such means, he took 
each nipple between his lips in turn and sucked.  The reaction of Achmed was 
all that he might have hoped for -- especially the unconscious squirming of 
her hips.  He suspected that his new slave was possessed of a hot and lusty 
nature.

	Having licked and nibbled his prisoner to his heart's content, 
Mahmood stood up and started to tug off Achmed's shoes, and then her 
patterned skirt.

	"Leave that there!" she barked.

	"Nay, my desert flower, I would revel in thy womanly glory once 
again."

	Now that she had been rendered bare below blouse which he had left 
bunched under her chin and armpits, he feasted his delighted eyes upon her 
nudity.  He ran his fingers lightly over her flesh, then commenced to kiss her 
belly and inner thighs.  Achmed concurrently growled and struggled, but had 
to endure all until, of a sudden, Mahmood drew back.  

	"Do not stop!" the blonde cried out.  He looked down at her with 
delight and amazement.  In fact, Achmed was more than a little amazed that 
she had said what she had said.

	"I shall stop whenever it pleases me, delight of my eyes," he said 
with a laugh.  "If a woman expects pleasure, she must first willingly give it."  
He stroked her fair scalp.  "Do you have a name?"

	Achmed blinked, her mind racing.  If he told the truth, the Egyptian 
might be very disappointed.  He would surely sell her to a caravaneer -- and 
already some dominant part of her did not want to be separated from this 
strangely-beguiling male.  "Uh -- I am called Sheba, Master."

	"Tell me then, little Sheba, do you belly dance?"

	The very idea struck the fallen vizier with incredulity.  "Me?  Of 
course not!  The whole idea is obscene!"

	"I thought all of Achmed's women could dance!" he thundered.  "I 
have been cheated!  By Allah, I will take you back!"

	"No, do not --!"  

	These words pleased Mahmood more than they pleased the one who 
had uttered them.  She grimaced in perplexity.

	"If you would not be taken back," the Egyptian giant teased, "you 
must kiss me better than you have thus far!  Open your mouth and let our 
tongues entwine like serpents in love!"

	Achmed stared venomously into his face.  "You will not live so 
long!"

	He chuckled patiently.  "An ill-tempered girl indeed!  This is a 
challenge which I like muchly.  There is an art of discipline which I observed 
in Marshan.  It is said to quell the most querulous temper, and I do not doubt 
that it shall quell thine own."

	He bound her ankles to the posts at the foot of the bed, then plucked 
the scarlet feather from his turban.  Achmed was unsure of his exact intention 
until he positioned himself over her and touched the plume betwixt her 
thighs.  

	"Yaah!" cried Achmed.

	"You do not like it?" queried Mahmood with amusement.  "That is too 
bad, but it is necessary to teach you the full consequences of your defiance."

	Achmed responded with a string of invectives, but a new application 
of the quill transformed her insults into shrieks for mercy.  The tickling 
continued interminably as the yowling prisoner fought to tear herself free.

	Mahmood paused at long last that she might draw breath.  "I cannot 
bear it, you degenerate dog!" Achmed panted.

	He shook his head.  "You still insult me.  Well, you shall endure your 
punishment for as long as the effort pleases me."  He did not speak more but 
resumed his labor of love.

	Another agonized shriek burst from Achmed.  She thrust her hips 
from side to side, arching her back in an attempt to break her bonds and turn 
herself face-down to protect her ticklish vulva, but the cords thwarted her.  
The more she screamed and writhed, the more amused was Mahmood.   

	Ah, yes, thought the Egyptian, those Marshanese knew how to 
reduce a female to abject obedience while doing her no real harm.  He decided 
that he would use the feather frequently in the future, for the slightest word or 
deed of offense.

	The bodyguard continued to torment his prisoner's tight little kus, 
sometimes up and down the divide, sometimes touching the tender tissues 
just within.  A spasm of deeply-felt reaction shook Achmed from head to toe 
and her labia drew into a pucker, allowing her tormentor the sight of her 
throbbing zambur, which was already enlarged by the hot blood coursing 
through her veins.

	"No!  For the love of Allah, stop!" the girl pleaded.  "Oh, God, I am 
in Shaitan's hell!"

	Mahmood remained unmoved.  Had she deserved mercy, she would 
have accompanied him tamely, he reasoned, and would not have sharpened 
her tongue upon him, would not have beaten and scratched at him.  She had 
much to learn, this lovely harem girl, and he would not spare her.  
Nonetheless, she looked as if she were close to a faint, and so he judged that 
it was time to give her a few minutes of respite.  

	"Tell me, little Sheba," he asked, "who is master here?"

	"You are master, Master!" Achmed cried breathlessly.

	"What are you?"

	She looked up into his avid eyes and knew the answer that he wanted.  
"A slave!  Only a slave!"

	"Superb!  You have freely declared yourself a slave and 
acknowledged me your master!  Thus thy fate is sealed, sweet Sheba.  You 
shall never be permitted to recant your surrender."

	Her look hardened into a glare, but he pretended not to notice.

	"If you are a slave true, you shall now ask your master to tickle you at 
that place of yours which is most sensitive, and bid him to continue your 
punishment as long as he pleases."

	Achmed screamed out her indignation so loudly that the whole inn 
heard it.

	"Disobedient girl!" Mahmood smiled.  "In as much as you are only a 
slave, I do not need your consent."  He immediately resumed his work until 
Achmed has screamed and cursed herself into a swoon.  Rising at last, the 
Egyptian poured himself a cup of wine, then filled another which he placed 
between the girl's quivering lips.  Still dazed, Achmed drank sloppily.  The 
cool beverage spilling upon her breasts helped her remember where she was.

	"Oh, no!  I thought it was only a nightmare!"

	"I do not understand you, my golden beauty, but no matter.  Are you 
ready to kiss your master as a tame slave should, or must he use the feather 
more?

	"No, not the feather!" she implored, her eyes watering and wild.

	"If you will not consent, you will have all of the feather that you can 
bear.  Or have grown inured to it?"

	She shut her eyes tightly and wailed:  "Oh, Allah, what did I do to 
deserve this?!"

	Mahmood stilled her voice with a powerful kiss.  For fear of the 
feather, Achmed accepted his lusty mouth against hers.  If the truth be told, 
the intimate contact with his aggressive and overwhelming male presence had 
begun to stir her strangely.  Before long their tongues were engaged like 
serpents in rapture.  Satisfied and rendered breathless, Mahmood rested back.

	"Kissing is good, little Sheba.  But there is something better."

	"Anything, anything!" she muttered.  "Just do not tickle me!"

	He began to loosen her ankles.  "Prepare thyself for Mouth Magic!"

 	Achmed's eyes stared like great moons.  "Never!  I will not do it!" 

	He frowned.  "No Mouth Magic?  Why, my pet?  Surely you must 
have done it for Achmed."

	"No!  I never did!"

	He grinned in surprise.  "Now that I think of it, I am pleased that 
Allah sent thee to me with virgin lips.  It shall be my privilege to take the 
virginity of your mouth."

	"You will not!" she shouted.  "Even if you tickle me to death I shall 
never do it!"

	"Is that your final word, my lusty wench?"

	"It is, you carrion-eater of the graveyard!"

	"Ah, my love, how you vex me."

	He had loosened her bindings, but Achmed gained little by it, for in a 
nonce she was retied again, only now she lay on her belly.  She watched the 
bodyguard ominously from the corner of her eye as he slid the belt from 
around his waist and doubled it up in his strong hands.

	"The fate of the disobedient girl is a harsh one.  After I have made 
thee wiser, we shall enjoy Mouth Magic!"

	He flexed his mighty muscles, but it was with much less than his full 
strength that he delivered a leathery blow across Achmed's derriere.  Despite 
his forbearance, the latter could not help but yell at the top of her lungs.  
Despite this, Mahmood delivered several more of the like, until Achmed's 
cries grew feeble and her lurches weak.

	The strapping completed, he sat down next to her.  "Mouth Magic, 
my love?" 

	Achmed nodded in defeat and Mahmood graciously untied her.  There 
seemed to be little fight left in her, which allowed him to strip off the 
Sudanese blouse, rendering her nude except for her collar and large earrings.

	A short rest revived Achmed sufficiently and she was soon bestirring 
herself enough to rub her buttocks, breasts, and inner thighs soothingly.  
Then, gathering her courage, she looked warily Mahmood's way.  The giant 
decided that she had been sufficiently chastened, so he drew her from the bed 
and made her kneel on the floor.  He himself sat on the edge of the bed, with 
his knees separated.

	"We will begin simply," Mahmood informed her sternly.  "You seem 
to be less experienced than I had expected, but I shall take care to make of 
thee the lusty companion whom I have always desired." 

	Fire flashed anew in the woman's glare.  

	"Do not pout so!" he warned her.  "A female is born to be mastered, 
especially one as finely-endowed as yourself."

	Achmed looked away.  Her quandary seemed almost beyond 
solution.  How could she reach Marshan unless escorted by a man?  But how 
could she win the aid of this man, any man, without yielding her virginity?

	"In more than one way you shall come to know the taste of your 
master," Mahmood continued.  "Afterwards, you must tell me how you have 
liked it.  -- Stick out your tongue, my lamb."

	Achmed did as told, but slowly.  It was more than resignation or even 
fear that she acted at all.  It was some inner drive, some strange fascination 
with what was happening despite her conscious repugnance, some clawing 
need to experience it.

	 Mahmood had by now freed his mighty member from his drawers 
and placing a hand behind Achmed's head he drew her close.  Instinctively, 
she withdrew her lingua behind pursed lips.

	"Stick out your tongue, Morning Star," he reminded her.

	When she had grudgingly done so, he rubbed his corona against it.  
The taste of male flesh brought sudden horror to Achmed.

	"Do not offend thy master by an ugly grimace, or thy lovely bottom 
will suffer," he warned.

	With a will, Achmed erased her loathing moue.

	"And do not drool like that.  Swallow!"

	Though feeling as though she must throw up, she instead swallowed. 
	"By Allah, you may not be so difficult to train as I first supposed.  
What a woman I have won!"

	He released her and Achmed rested back upon her heels.

	"May I rise now, -- Master?"  He had used the term for tactical 
necessity, but it still tasted bitter.

	"Nay!  Lie down upon the bed.  I yearn to stroke my scepter betwixt 
those soft mountains of the moon!"

	Achmed looked furtively about, but, espying no avenue of rout, lay 
down supinely upon the bed.  The bodyguard seated himself lightly on her 
torso, most of his weight supported by his knees upon the mattress.  After 
that, the man wasted little time in placing his long, excited zubb between her 
breasts like a long upon the fire.

	"Hold thy lovelies together," he instructed the girl, "and form of them 
a mountain pass for my caravan!"

	Achmed did as told, if mechanically, and what followed was very 
pleasurable for the warrior.  But despite this, Mahmood's passion for variety 
soon re-exerted itself.  

	"Stick out your tongue again," he said.  "It shall be the mountain 
stream and each time my caravan journeys into the mountains, my lead camel 
will drink!"

	Once more the full-figured girl cast her pleading eyes up to the abode 
of Allah. . . .

		 #

	Emir Haroon, Ali, Hassan, and the royal councilors had again 
gathered that night to discuss the terrible ramifications of Ali's problem.  
Suddenly there was a ruckus in the antechamber.  "What is this disruption?" 
demanded the beleaguered emir.

	"Let me see my father!" insisted a voice from without -- a man's voice 
which sounded strangely familiar to all of those gathered there.

	A dark-haired youth entered, wrapped in a woman's jubbeh.

	"By Allah!" one grandee cried out in amazement.

	The intruder was Ali, of that there was absolutely no doubt, but it was 
an Ali who was again in male form.  All eyes turned upon the gravid woman 
sitting beside Hassan to make sure that she was still there, then they returned 
in bafflement to the intruder.

	"Ali?  Am I dreaming?" declared the emir.

	"I am Ayeesha, Father," the youth said.  "Yusuf possessed one last 
flask of the magic water, and this I took from him."

	"How is that possible?  Yusuf is moldering in my prison!" the 
monarch declared.

	"No longer!" said Ayeesha.  "I freed him in exchange for his service 
to me.  My pardon, Great One.  If I have earned punishment, I will accept it 
humbly."

	"The magician must be found!  This outrage must be reversed!"

	"That's not possible, Father," the false Ali said with a nervous 
swallow.  "I knew what your will would be, so I took special care to cast off 
my male virginity in the arms of Princess Badiat."

	"Ayee!" cried the emir, tearing at his hair.  "Why must I be tormented 
this way in my declining years?  Our house shall be the laughingstock of the 
entire world!" 

		#

	Mahmood at last brought his current diversion to a reluctant end and 
dismounted from the bed.

	"Are we finished, Master?" Achmed moaned.

	Mahmood swept her up into his arms and spun about with her once.  
"Foolish one, you have not given me true Mouth Magic.  It is time."

	Achmed moaned and made appeal to the cobwebs overhead.  "Allah, I 
am a sinner, I admit it!  Make me a camel, an unclean pig, make me any sort 
of low beast -- but not a harem girl!"

	"Insolent woman!  Stop this mad wailing!  Will I have to strap you 
again?!"

	Achmed blenched.  "No!  Not the strap!  I cannot bear it!"

	Seeing her distress and moved to pity, the big warrior nuzzled her 
golden hair, which now wafted the distinct scent of perspiration.  "You must 
obey me, my pearl," he confided, "then forever afterwards I shall be gentle 
with thee."

	When she made no reply, he placed her upon her knees and resumed 
his seat on the edge of the bed.  Achmed beheld the rampant cock-stand 
between her captor's fingers with deep misgiving.

	"Do not try my patience," Mahmood admonished.  "You know well 
what is expected of thee."

	Indeed, Achmed knew only too well.  As the bodyguard waited, she 
inched her reluctant lips close-in and fumblingly took the crown of his Tree 
of Life between them; it filled her whole mouth.  With a shudder, she 
commenced a very tentative fellatio.

	"Deeper, wench!" rumbled Mahmood as his patience frayed.  "Use 
more tongue."  He pushed her head down and her eyes bulged from the lack 
of air.  Noting his mistake, the ghazi let her break away, coughing and 
spitting.  

	The Egyptian picked her up and deployed her upon the mattress, 
prone.  "We shall return to Mouth Magic very soon," he said, patting her 
buttocks fondly, "but first I would pass through Shaitan's Gate."

	"Shaitan's Gate?" Achmed echoed.  "Not that!"

	"Would you feel the strap again?!"

	She looked away miserably.  "No, Master."

	"Very well then!" 

	Mahmood, having poured a little olive oil over his fingers and 
lubricated his slave's nether passage.  Having dried his hands upon a towel, 
he took a seat upon the humble wooden dikkeh which stood up against one 
wall.  "Now, my pretty one," the warrior instructed, "come here and sit upon 
my lap!"

	This was not the position which Achmed had expected to assume, but 
her long experience in lechery allowed her to understand.  She got up and 
padded toward him on bare feet.  Mahmood drew her down and positioned 
her facing forward, her knees upon his own.  He then placed his hands about 
her breasts, which he stroked, petted, squeezed, and pinched, which caused 
Achmed to draw trembling gulps of air.  

	Aware of his partner's growing excitement, the giant gradually moved 
his fingers down over her belly, until he reached her womanhood.  So 
distracted by this was Achmed, that she barely noted now he was lifting her 
until with a yelp of startlement and initial discomfort, the blonde slave felt 
herself impaled by Mahmood's long, thick male weapon.  

	Scandalized to be treated so, Achmed wriggled to escape, but a hand 
on her bosom and another about her waist held her snugly.  When she at last 
quieted, Mahmood began to play with her breasts with his left hand, and her 
kus with his right, her wriggles creating friction with the intrusive hugeness 
inside of her.  The three-way pleasuring eventually began to overwhelm a 
woman heated to urgent need by Maiden's Ruin. Suddenly her eyes started 
wide; she who had known thousands of male orgasms realized that another 
kind of climax threatened.

	"No, Allah!" she cried out to Heaven.  "Have mercy!  Do not make 
me come!  I am not a woman!  Do not make me come!"

	Mahmood might have wondered at these strange words had his mind 
not been lost to pleasure.  Achmed's first woman's orgasm followed 
inexorably -- powerful, rich, full, and glorious.  She spent wildly, arching 
her back and neck, moaning, her nails digging into his hands.  And 
Mahmood, delighted by her sounds and movement of transport, did not 
desist from his tri-part servicing until she had come twice more.  Finally, 
spent and breathless, Achmed was freed of her mighty penetration as 
Mahmood swung her up in his arms, to carry her to  bed.

	"Rest a moment, little houri," he said.  "After I have refreshed my 
body and yours, and after your faint woman's strength has returned, I shall 
teach you more about the giving of Mouth Magic."

		#

	Ayeesha was leaning against the door jamb, arms crossed, waiting for 
the elders to resolve their grave debate.  Finally, the group nodded in 
consensus and their spokesman, Madani, addressed the emir:

	"This is not an insurmountable disaster, Sire.  Wise and wonderful 
are the ways of Allah!"

	"What are you babbling about?" the monarch growled, his nails 
cutting into the varnish of his chair.

	"We, your councilors, have a solution.  Let Ali marry Lord Hassan as 
Ayeesha, and let Ayeesha marry Badiat as Ali.  Ayeesha may succeed you as 
your son and the dynasty she sires shall be yours.  The people need never 
know that anything is amiss!"

	Haroon responded with incredulity.  "I may not be able to avoid 
letting my children make whatever mad matches they will," he bemoaned, 
"but think of the good of our kingdom!  To give the realm over to an untried 
girl --"

	Ali overheard and went to her father.  "Ayeesha is bright and bold, 
Majesty!  Why should she not assume those obligations which I cannot?"

	"But I trained you, not her!" the old man reminded his erstwhile son.

	"Allah willing, you shall have time to instruct her as you instructed 
me," Ali pressed.  "She may become the best-prepared ruler of our line.  She 
shall certainly have insights that none of our ancestors ever enjoyed."

	The monarch shook his head wearily.  "This is too much for me!" 

	"Think it over carefully, Sire," one of the councilors urged.  "The 
princess' -- the prince's -- observation makes a strange sort of sense," 

	Ayeesha crossed over to Ali then.  "I cannot do this to you, Brother.  
I would feel like a thief, a usurper."

	The transformed prince smiled sympathetically and touched the young 
man's cheek, already bristly for neglect of shaving.  "You have chosen to be 
our father's son, Sister, and therefore must accept all which goes with it.  I 
cannot rule as I am and, to speak truly, I never desired to rule in any case.  I 
was prepared to do so simply because it was my destiny.  It is your destiny 
now."

	"I wanted only a little freedom and the love of Badiat, not a throne," 
Ayeesha protested.

	"It is not easy to be a man, I know," commiserated his sibling.  "I am 
more fortunate than you.  My life is my own now, and it has a kind of 
completeness, a fullness that a monarch's heir can never know."  

	At just that moment the Princess Ali felt a twinge and touched her 
swollen abdomen.  "Perhaps it has too much fullness!"

	Hassan joined them and took his beloved into his arms.  Ayeesha 
embraced them both at once.

	"The deceit may work!" the emir exclaimed.  "After all, who is so 
mad as to suspect the truth?  We must announce the marriages at once!  Call a 
celebration!"

		#

	While the marriage plans for the royal children were in preparation, 
Achmed was kneeling with her lips firmly wrapped around her master's 
swollen glory.  She was making a determined up-and-down movement of her 
head, fluttering her tongue along the bulb, which was expanding between her 
jaws with blood-filled firmness.  Mahmood felt its thickening, its expansion, 
could feel the teeth on both sides of it.  His pleasure only subsided when it 
had become a struggle against release.  

	To the man, the slave girl's mouth felt like a kus, only better; it was 
lively, kinetic, but the warmth was the same, as was the moistness and 
cloying snugness -- and even the soft pliancy of her oral tissues.  

	"Truly," Mahmood gasped, "this is Mouth Magic!  I -- I believe that -
- that you were -- born for the pleasing of men. . . ."  Suddenly his face 
distorted into a grimace, and he pushed her away.  "Enough of that, girl!  I 
would prefer to plant my seed in ground more fertile."

	Achmed drew back, wiping her lips on the back of her arm.  As the 
Egyptian recovered rapidly from his near-brush with release, he extended her 
his hand to his companion; she took it.  "How did you become so wise in 
some ways," he asked, "yet so innocent in others?"

	"From -- from the shameless women of Achmed's harem," she 
answered carefully.  "I watched them, sometimes very closely."  Very closely 
indeed!

	"Ah, of course!  That would mean that you have been well-tutored to 
act the whore."

	The maid looked at him, offended.

	"To act the whore," he corrected himself gallantly, "but yet not be 
one.'

	Achmed nodded thoughtfully.  "Yes, Master, I am exceptionally well-
tutored to act the whore!"  

	He patted her cheek.  "In Egypt, men will anoint your tiny feet with 
coin."

	Achmed looked at him alarmedly.  "You will make me a harlot?!"

	Mahmood scowled.  "Of course not!  I am no bawd!  You shall dance 
in the hostel which I shall own, but none shall touch you --  None save I!  
But you shall feel my touch often, and my touch shall go deep!"

	"Me, a dancing girl?" Achmed mewed.  "Ogled, fondled, -- and 
pinched by strangers?"

	"Doubtless."  He took her in hand, rose to a kneel and drew her 
thighs apart.  He slipped his fingers between her thighs.

	Despite all, Achmed was by no means forgetful of the hazards of 
penetration.  "Master, have pity!  I am a virgin!"

	"Virgin?  That, too?  Fie!  Did Achmed do nothing except watch you 
dance?!"

	Achmed replied apprehensively:  "I -- I cannot dance.  I was never 
taught!"

	"Wallah!" he cried.  "You are nothing but a raw village girl!"

	"If you say so.  I cannot help being what I am!" 

	His frown mellowed.  "What you are is good enough.  My sisters are 
fine dancers.  You shall learn what you need to know from them, as they 
learned from our mother.  Your dance shall draw customers from all over 
Cairo.  As for your virginity, it is a deficiency easily cured."  He drew her 
down to the pillow beside him.  

	"No, Mas --" she cried as his mouth smothered hers.

	His need was great, his foreplay was fierce, his hands explored her 
body ungently.  The ensorceled Achmed, pressed into the mattress, was 
brought along against her will.  Then Mahmood, having delayed his ultimate 
pleasure as long as a man so lusty possibly could, gripped his aching member 
and brought its coral head to her threshold.

	Achmed dug her heels into the linen sheets, knowing that he was 
going to enter her.  But there was still hope -- or so she thought.  The seed of 
Man would have no effect upon her -- not if she felt no joy when it filled her.  
She hurriedly steeled herself, cleared her mind, focused upon experiencing 
only pain, anger, and repugnance.

	"Unngh!" she groaned as his thick weapon pushed into the cleft of 
her pale-furred pubis.

	The feeling was overwhelming.  The probe plumbed into the soft, wet 
hallway of her virginity.  He pressed it forward an inch at a time, mindful of 
her tightness.  Finally, its whole great length was enveloped by her hair-
fringed kus.  

	Achmed grunted, sighed, and shivered -- and unconsciously spread 
her tremulous legs even wider to make his possession of her all the more 
complete.  But now that he had impaled her to the limit, Mahmood began to 
pump, deep-shafting her with an insistent, forceful regularity.  His pounding 
groin rose and fell between the bare flesh of her sleek thighs.  With each 
desirous lunge his massive weapon glided though the love fluids which her 
body was yielding in welcome of him.  Her breasts shook and her shoulders 
shuddered.  The steady retreat and advance of the swollen head of his zubb 
pounded her cervix rhythmically.

	Every prior resolution that Achmed had made began to seem far away 
and long ago.  She began to move in concert with his body, even as he 
assaulted her ruthlessly.  What she was experiencing had set her blood afire 
and compelled her to lurch her hips upward that she might skewer herself all 
the more completely.

	Now Achmed's breathing was coming in spasmodic gasps, and she 
was progressively driven into a delirium of feeling.  Her hands slid over her 
partner's sweat-filmed back, then dug into his hips and pulled hard, so that 
she might remain well-filled with male hardness.

	Trembling, groaning, Achmed spent her passion in a jerking climax.  
Nor did Mahmood pause until he had spurted her full of semen, her wail of 
pleasure concurrently ringing in his ears.

	Sated at long last, the giant rolled off her and lay on his back.  "May 
my seed have fallen upon rich delta soil, my tiger cat," he murmured.

	Achmed turned over and looked blearily at herself in the mirror, 
where a frazzled, sweat-bedewed woman looked back at her with inflamed 
eyes. 

	Achmed belatedly realized that during the last quarter hour she had 
been feeling neither repugnance nor anger, only excitement and need.  Allah!  
Was her fate sealed?  She touched her breasts, her wet inner thighs and let out 
a long, mournful keen.

	"Silly one!" said Mahmood, running his hand over her slick back.  
"Why the woe?"

	"I am nothing," she responded miserably.  "My wretched fate is to be 
sold on the block into unknown hands the day that you tire of me.  I have 
become like a domestic beast!"

	Mahmood turned her about and kissed her runneled cheeks.  "You are 
no beast to me, but a treasure.  I shall never sell you so long as you desire to 
stay with me.  Moreover, when you bear me a son, my sweet Sheba, I shall 
make you my bride."

	"By Allah!" she cried, touching herself.  "What have we done?!  Even 
now I could be --"

	Mahmood patted her warm little belly.  "If Allah should will it so, you 
are.  But son or nay, love me faithfully and I shall cherish you for as long as 
I live."

	She shook her head and buried her face in her hands.  "How may I 
promise that?  I do not think that I have ever loved anyone."

	Mahmood stroked her, undaunted.  "I know there is love in you, 
desirable one, and we shall find it together.  I regret that I cannot give you the 
comfort and luxury which Achmed could, but I will protect you from all the 
dangers of the world, and keep you safe."

	She looked at him with new eyes.  What he was offering was the 
closest thing to security that a friendless, clanless woman could hope for.  
"Truly?" asked Achmed.

	"For certain!  Ever since that day upon which I first saw you in 
Achmed's harem, I have desired you.  Not a night passed during my long 
travels that I did not see your face resting on the blanket beside me.  You are 
my dream come true."

	The Circassian beauty gave back a tight smile.  "Do you love me so 
much that you will not punish me no matter how much I deserve it?"

	"Ha!" he laughed.  "I love you so much that I will tie you down and 
apply the feather without pity the first time you misbehave!"

	Achmed smiled.  "One cannot help but be a little bad, at least once in a 
while."  Relief had made her suddenly playful and she plucked at the curls of 
hair upon his broad chest.

	"You minx!  You will need much tickling, I think.  And maybe some 
strapping, too?"

	She sank back into the pillow.   "Sometimes a girl ought to be 
strapped," she remarked.

	"Is that so?  Then, my sassy little authority, when exactly should a 
girl be strapped?"

	She shrugged.  "I would make a girl's bottom sore whenever her 
master is in a lusty mood and she is not."  And that was the truth.

	Mahmood cupped her left breast and pinched the nipple.  "Do you 
anticipate that a girl such as mine shall need many strapping?"

	The fires of Maiden's Ruin were especially hot in her veins just then.  
"Not many," she whispered.

	Mahmood gave out a great laugh and pulled her flush to his chest.  
"Allah is kind," he said.

	Achmed's lips sought his.  "Allah is also wise."

	"Praise be to Allah!" Mahmood agreed as their open mouths met.

		#

	Scheherazade says:

		"And so by Allah's will, those changed by the magical 
	fountain lived happily for many years to come.  Ayeesha married 
	Badiat and succeeded his father as emir of Damascus.  He ruled both 
	wisely and well, save for a certain folly.  Ayeesha supposed, and 
	quite wrongly, that all women were by nature of his own 
	temperament, or else like Badiat, whom he had made his queen.  
	Neither the men nor women of Damascus liked an emir who so 
	presumptuously trampled upon their centuried traditions.  And also, 
	Ayeesha's too-forward consort was unpopular.  For this reason, and 
	for no other, Ayeesha achieved neither the fame nor the wide 
	appreciation formerly bestowed upon the great Haroon, despite the 
	continuing prosperity of the kingdom.

		"She who had been the bandit Ben Jakhar, became a whip-
	mistress in Damascus, but it was not the will of Allah that she should 
	long practice that cruel profession.  Bewitched by Maiden's Ruin as 
	she was (and would remain for many years), Danya could not resist 
	going to the marketplace from time to time, where she danced for 
	coppers and sported casually with strangers.  Before a year had 
	passed, a fierce desert sheikh became enamored of the beautiful 
	dancer of the suks, and so abducted her away.  Some say he tamed 
	the fierce heart of the dancing girl like the whip-masters of Marshan 
	never had, that Danya soon came to experience the third part of 
	slavery in his conquering arms without the need of magic's false 
	glamour; others say that they know nothing of the matter whatsoever.

		"Ali became Hassan's wife, and that brave warrior never had 
	cause nor desire to take another.  From their love came many fine 
	sons and beautiful daughters.  When it came to pass that a fever swept 
	the East and carried off the emir and heir, and Hassan's eldest son 
	rose to the throne of Damascus.  This younger Hassan ever-valued 
	the wise council of his noble father and learned mother.  By their 
	sagacity, Ayeesha's intrusive reforms were done away with, and their 
	dynasty was a well-regarded one that ruled the great city until the all-
	conquering Mongols seized the land and drove the family into exile.

		"And as for Achmed, she was carried away to Egypt, where 
	Mahmood soon purchased a fine hostel.  There the belly dancer Sheba 
	performed beguilingly for its lusty patrons.  It came to pass that after 
	presenting her master with three pretty daughters, Sheba subsequently 
	bore to him a strong, vigorous son.  True to his plighted word, 
	Mahmood then made the blonde glory of Cairo his wedded bride.

		"Did Achmed ever long for the cup of ambition which had 
	been torn from her lips?   This we cannot know, but the cup of 
	ambition may happily yield to the Cup of Life, which is a vessel that 
	may be filled with many a different beverage.  And some of these 
	vintages are exceedingly sweet."

End

Copyright 1999


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JULIJANA: Волшебные превращения мужчины в женщину

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