Prologue

Her black hair bouncing about her waist, Shaherazade leapt up and down in attempt to catch a look of the rumored-to-be beautiful bride on the carried palanquin to whom all eyes were naturally drawn to: other than the occasional child like Shaherazade, the bride was the only woman in the hall, the other women having already celebrated without the interference of men. She could not help but be somewhat self-conscious of her own, much simpler, parrot green attire in the face of such possibly immense beauty. She was at that age where such things were beginning to become conscious and she was most certainly not enjoying. Sullen at the thought, she scuffed a curled slipper on the marble floor, but quickly skipped up again as a sudden gap appeared in the crowd as folk dispersed in the search of food.

"Calm down, Shaherazade," reprimanded her father, putting a staying hand on her shoulder. "You will see the bride and Sultan when they come down. Now, it would not be graceful for the daughter of one the king's most prominent vizier's to be hopping along like a rabbit, now would it? There's a good girl."

With a grave nod, Shaherazade assented. The sight of his young daughter's momentarily serious face caused Qubaz to smile so that his grey mustache gathered in the lines of his cheeks, like grass growing in the crags of cliffs.

The wedding was being held in the grandest hall of the palace, where the golden arches swooped gracefully although they were heavily laden with inlay and carving over the heads of the guests and intricate lanterns of silver and gold that swung from the archways glowed all about casting the whole affair into a soft, charmed light. But Shaherazade's eyes continuously returned to the Sultan and Sultana and it was quite evident to Shaherazade's eyes that they were utterly engrossed in one another. Over the haunting music of sitars and drums she whispered to her younger sister, Dunyazad, "Are they not so very sweetly in love?"

Dunyazad straightened her gold-embroidered rose gown and responded uninterestedly, "Very much." Sighting heaps of food being unloaded upon the tables, Dunyazad proposed, "Let us get some food!"

They wove their way though the glistening and gleaming masses that had come to attend one of the greatest wedding of their time. From as far as Samarkand—although this was the Sultan's brother so that was expected: rajas, maharanis, emperors, empresses, emirs, kings and queens to honor the Sultan and his wife, who beamed grandly at their guests, inviting all to share in their happiness. With a multitude of candles glowing gold against the intricate tile-work of cerulean, gold and cream on the walls, it was a beautiful wedding, although the ceremonial contract signing and prayers had been unbearably dull to impetuous Shaherazade.

Forcing her way through the crowd, never mind how great the people she pushed aside, in a manner which would not do the Vizier credit, Shaherazade nearly slipped on one of the many scattered pearls on the floor. She flushed with embarrassment at her clumsiness. After recovering, she caught the heavily-lined spring green eye of the Sultana, Fataneh, who gave her a small smile, her rosy lips parting in amusement, and nudged the Sultan, who sat beside her at the main table, and whispered something to him at which he too grinned. Shaherazade blushed again, but the Sultan beckoned her to come forward.

Cocking her head in confusion, she took a tentative step forward and then another. Slowly, she made her way to the royal couple, coming to stand behind their seats, apprehension building in her shoulders.

"You are…Shaherazade?" the Sultan hazarded, recognizing at the very least that it was one of his vizier's daughters.

She nodded numbly, unable to speak at the sheer prettiness surrounding her. The sultana's ebony hair, covered somewhat by her storm-blue veil, cascaded past her shoulders, down to her hips in smooth waves and whenever she glanced at her husband her ivory complexion glowed. Shaherazade could not help but flush brightly at her next, almost sacrilegious thought. If it were possible, the Sultan was even more beautiful than his new wife with coal black eyes and hair, fine cheekbones and nose. And kindness, let that not be forgotten. Together, they appeared benediction personified and to Shaherazade's child eyes, neither could ever be capable of anything that might cause harm to the other or anyone else.

"What think you of my new wife? Is she not the fairest woman, kindest, gentlest, sweetest in the land?" He said all of this smilingly and without cringing at the over-sweetness of the sentiment: a tribute to how deeply enraptured he was.

Shaherazade dropped her eyes, not out of modesty, but in the attempt to restrain her giggles at the effusiveness of it all.

The Sultan, spotting her suddenly tightened lips, scolded her, his voice mocking. "Now, you know that you should not laugh at your Sultan. It is not done. You are lucky I am feeling magnanimous today, little Shaherazade, that my wife has made me so happy. Today, I forgive you. But be off before I change my mind!"

With another giggle and a duck of her head, Shaherazade scampered away, rejoining Dunyazad behind a massive pillar carved with scrawling Persian script, where the latter had piled into her skirts candied fruits and cakes. The rest of the night was spent gallivanting outside of the formal hall, beneath the light of the moon reflected off the desert sand, with the rest of the exiled mass of children, all garbed in their finery and all itching to be out of it.

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That was the first time I spoke to the Sultan although I had seen him often. That was the first time I had seen the Sultana although I had heard of her often. He was a man of one and twenty and I, a child of eleven, his wife, a blossoming nineteen. Who would have thought, at that time, after seeing that pair dote upon each other, that eight years later things would have ended and then begun as they had? Who would have thought that I would have been one of a succession of women to sit beside a transformed, distrusting Sultan, to smile at the grim guests all the while knowing that the ascending sun would result in death? Who would have thought that a girl who could barely string two words together before the Sultan would have to seduce him with her tales, disarm him with her wit? But such questions only raise more questions, and nothing can be resolved in a swirl of inquiries. That is my duty, after all, to settle the questions, to interest and then toy with my listener all the while keeping him waiting for my next phrase, for, in the end, what am I but a humble storyteller?

A/n: This is sort of a trial run to see what y'all think of it. Since I have nearly finished Daughter of the Sea, it's time to start on a new endeavor and I've had this Shaherazade story fermenting in my mind for a couple of years now, and yeah. Review and let me know if you even think this is worth the time, etc.

PS-If anyone has any cultural knowledge about the Abbasid Empire then hook me up!