Tears rolled down the sultan's cheeks as Inara finished her story. "That was the most wonderful story I have ever heard," marveled the sultan. "My wives have told wonderful tales, but without happy endings. Here is your story, surpassing them all."
Inara asked, "Your highness, what did your wives tell you of?"
The sultan told her of the selkies, of Psyche and Eros, of Nada, of Hou Yi and finally, of Rama and Sita. Inara grew more and more confused as the sultan related the tales. "But, my lord, those are not the endings I have heard at all!"
"While the selkie did, indeed, flee from her husband, only a few months later, the fisherman found a baby basket on the surf containing his infant daughter. He never saw his wife again, but the children would sometimes bear the imprints of wet hugs after he came back from his trade.
"As for Psyche, she eventually found a temple of Aphrodite and did three impossible tasks for the goddess of beauty. Eros forgave his wife once she had finished the tasks, and Psyche took a place among the immortals.
"Nada, perhaps, does not have as satisfying an ending. Kai'ckul sentenced her to hell, and she spent ten thousand years in torment. However, the dream god eventually repented of his treatment of her, released her and gave her a new form on earth, to live out a better life than the one he had forced her to leave.
"Hou Yi journeyed to the Spirit of the West one more time, waiting ten thousand years for the next crop of peaches to come to fruition. Once the first Peaches of Immortality were ripe, he ate one, and like his wife, journeyed up to the sky, becoming the god of the sun, reuniting with his wife.
"Finally, while Rama and Sita did die on that funeral pyre, their spirits ascended up to heaven, where they became the god Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, eternally bound together." Inara finished her endings of the wives' stories and the sultan was quiet.
"Jabir!" he called the eunuch into the room. "Go get my wives to come here."
Once again, the five sat in front of the sultan, none looking at the other. "Would someone care to tell me why you all have been cutting off the ends of your own stories?" the sultan asked angrily.
It was timid Ahmar who spoke. "Your majesty, if you are to judge who your chief wife is to be by story alone, it is this woman here that should hold that role. All of us are agreed that she alone is most worthy."
"We attempted to tell you through the broken ends of our stories," supplied Jahzara. "I might push myself away from you, and you will banish me, but eventually, both of us will come to our senses and reconcile."
"Husband, I may have traveled here from a place that seems as far away as the moon," Li Hua continued. "However, you have become my sun and made everything seem so much closer."
"There will come a time when you will doubt everyone's innocence," Mallika nodded. "I can only hope that my story will convince you to believe your wives, even though in heaven we may meet again."
Xanthe picked up the thread. "Eros and Psyche were driven away by distrust, but brought back together by the love they shared. I wish that to be true for us as well."
"I may be further from my family than anyone else here," Ahmar spoke in a small voice. "But I would not just leave my child for home. If anything, my home is now with you."
The sultan was touched. "You all feel this way?"
"My lord, the only one among us who spoke of a woman and man being truly loyal to each other was Inara," Li Hua said. "It is she who deserves your love more than any of us."
The sultan looked at the storyteller, who kept her head down. "Are you willing to become my chief wife, Inara?" he asked her.
"I am just a slave, your majesty," she protested weakly.
The sultan and Inara wed, much to the rejoicing of the people and his other wives. Far from being jealous, the women welcomed her and regarded her as a sister and godmother to their growing children who loved their storyteller so much. Only a few months passed before Inara became pregnant, and gave birth to her first child, a boy. However, on the thousandth night of her marriage to the sultan, a second boy was born, who would become a greater and more famous sultan than any that ever lived. The boy's name was Haroun al-Rashid, who is now better known as the sultan who reigned during the times that One Thousand and One Nights was first written. His name has become immortal within the wide pages of the book, preserving his mother's story within the tomes of history.
A happy ending, for one and for all,
A slave becomes queen in a gilded hall.
Here we come to the end of my long tale,
Be sure you remember it without fail.
For one day your children may ask of you
To tell them a story, and make it true.
A/N: I apologize for the unnecessarily long wait. I was hosting an exchange student for two weeks, and could hardly find the time to check my e-mail.
If you look up Haroun al-Rashid, his mother actually was a slave sold to the previous sultan. I was trying to find a good time period to place the story in, and voila! It just so happens that this story might have been at least partially true.
Kudos to whisperingxblue, who guessed the Ouran High School Host Club reference. The sultan's children are all based off the main characters of the series:
Li Hua's children Tamam and Takiya are Suoh Tamaki and Morinozuka Takashi, Xanthe's daughter Hani is Haninozuka Mitsukuni (Honey-sempai), Mallika's twins Hikal and Kaorim are, of course, Hitachiin Hikaru and Kaoru, Jahzara's son Khoya is Ootori Kyoya, and Ahmar's daughter Haruah is Fujioka Haruhi.
The story Inara tells them while their mothers are in the baths (Chapter 7 – The Sixth Day) about a king and his court is rather loosely pulled from the plot of the series. Congratulations, whisperingxblue, you win the internet! . . . but I'm using it right now, so would you settle for a metaphysical cookie?
If you enjoyed the stories written here, I suggest you take a look at:
The Secret of Roan Inish (Videorecording) - Directed and edited by John Sayles. © 1993 Columbia Tristar Home Video. Rated PG
Cupid and Psyche – © 1996 M. Charlotte Craft; illustrated by K.Y. Craft
Psyche and Eros – © 2006 LKA. http(colonslashslashwwwwdot)fictionpress(dot)com(slash)s(slash)2241068(slash)1(slash)
Tales in the Sand, from Sandman: The Doll's House, © 1990 Neil Gaiman, DC Comics
Ho Yi the archer and other classic Chinese tales – © 2001 Shelley Fu, Linnet Books; illustrated by Joseph F. Abboreno.
The Ramayana – © 2003 Ramesh Menon, North Point Press (Pretty much any version of the Ramayana will do, not necessarily this one)
Rimonah of the Flashing Sword : a North African tale © 1995 Eric A. Kimmel, Holiday House ; illustrated by Omar Rayyan
Ouran High School Host Club (TV Series) – © 2006 NTV. Available for download on the web and through bittorrent, possibly to be licensed in the U.S. sometime soon. (I highly recommend this series)
Bunny Heart from Alice 19th Volume 7: The Lost Word – © 2003 Yu Watase, VIZ, LLC.
Reviews are always welcome!! An author's best reward comes from acknowledgement. I don't care if it's been six years since I posted this story, if you're reading it, I want to know what you thought. Thank you for reading!