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"O Amahd, can it be you? Surely when I saw you a month ago, you were a beggar in the marketplace. And now you are dressed in fine raiment and weighted down with jewels! Allah has surely seen fit to bless you! Tell me, how did this come about?"
"Indeed, the Compassionate One has blessed me greatly! And it is as you say. I was a beggar, and an unlucky one at that, for few of those with riches gave alms, and those with little could give little. I was companion to dogs and vultures. At length, starving and alone, I thought, 'Why not make an end of yourself? Surely what comes after will be no worse than such a life!' And I took myself to the ruins beyond the graves, out to the east, to cast myself down a dry well, and there perish."
"But then a marvelous ocurrence befell me! Down in the well, at the bottom, was a glint of brass, lit by the mid-day sun! Instead of dashing myself down, I climbed carefully into the well and retrieved the object, thinking to sell it to a merchant for a few weeks worth of money to sustain my miserable existence. And as the evening approached, I climbed out with--a lamp!"
"The top of it and the spout were sealed with wax, and this wax stamped with strange designs I knew little of. Thinking there might be further treasure inside, I peeled back the wax on the spout. And then--as surely as Allah lives--thick smoke in a multitude of colors began to spill out!"
"The smoke then condensed into a pillar of iridescent cloud, which took on the form of a woman, majestic and terrible of aspect in her beauty!"
"It was, it told me, a DJINN! One of those spirits of air and fire bound into service and contained in the lamp by Sulimein-bin-Daoud, who had power over all such spirits. In gratitude at being freed after many centuries, it offered me three wishes in the space of a day."
"Being a beggar, my first thought was, of course, for riches. I wished for wealth like that of a mighty sultan or a merchant prince. The djinn laughed at this in derision, but in an instant brought me heaps and mountains of gold and silver, orichalcum and emeralds, the treasuries of empires buried and forgotten a thousand years."
"But I have heard that even princes grow tired of riches without company, and remembered my loneliness as a beggar. So I wished for women of great beauty and trustworthiness, who would prove true to me and to the Faith. At this, the djinn outright sneered in contempt, but obeyed with great haste. She was able to find four such women, sultanas and khatuns from far-off lands, skilled in every art."
"But then I bethought me, 'Ahmad, having wealth, will not others try to possess it? And will not other men of power be jealous of me, and seek to steal these women away from me? How can one safeguard oneself against calamity?' Long I thought, perplexed. Then--praise be to the Merciful One!--I thought to enquire of the princesses, who had spent their days in gentle discourse rather than in scrabbling for alms! And the wisest of them counseled me to wish for the wisdom to know who would deal honestly with me and who intended ill towards me. And at this, the genie smiled, saying 'IT IS DONE' and vanished, leaving me clothed in princely garb and endowed with the stately beard you now see."
"And as you, O my friend, were always one to give when you had in abundance, and I see no guile or trickery in you, take this sack of flawless rubies in thanks for your alms in former time--for such charity is pleasing to Allah!"
"This is a wondrous tale indeed, Ahmad! Surely there is neither might nor majesty save in God the Most High and Wonderful."
(Special guest appearances by a RAFM egyptian assistant as Ahmad the beggar, an Artizan Afghan warlord as Ahmad in good fortune, Almah the Merchant Princess (60052), Jasmine Silverveil (02497), Nemesra (03767), and Bombshell's Qadira.)
Bonus content! Let's see the two sisters, Ashana and Ziba, reunited: