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I have been reading The Arabian Nights (the sanitised Victorian version, unfortunately, not the more lurid original), and you know me well enough to know that I generally turn everything to cricket in the end. Therefore, I present to you this pastiche:

An hour before daybreak Dinarzade awoke, and exclaimed, “My dear sister, if you are not asleep, tell me I pray you, before the sun rises, one of your charming stories.”

Scheherazade turned to the Sultan and asked, “Will your highness permit me to do as my sister asks?”

“Willingly,” he answered, so Scheherazade began.

The Tale of the Vizier and the Djinn

Sire, there once lived, far to the south, a wise and kind Caliph. He dwelt in a splendid palace with his many courtiers, and he was loved and respected throughout the land. One day he was taking his ease in the gardens of his palace with ten of his most trusted courtiers, and his companions were boasting about the feats of magical prowess which they had accomplished. One said, “I know a magic spell which can, with one delivery, banish a djinn from the land.”

A second said, “I too know such a spell, and I used it this morning to dismiss a great djinn.”

A third replied, “That’s nothing, this morning I have already banished three djinns. It is only a shame that there are no more to be found about this place, or I could show you my magic now.”

Upon the utterance of these words, the sky suddenly clouded over, and a great wind swept down from the mountain and blew all the clouds together into a towering column, ten times larger than a man, which formed itself into the shape of a great djinn. Instead of hair, it had flames issuing from its scalp, and its arms were covered with writhing patterns and letters, all of which had powerful magical meanings.

“I have been sent by my fellow djinns,” boomed the creature, “to avenge them for their banishment. I was told that here there were great magicians who had waged war against my people, and I have come to destroy this caliph and his court.

The courtiers cowered, for they had never seen a being so powerful and terrifying.

“Come,” cried the djinn in a terrible voice, “there must be one amongst you brave enough to face me in battle.”

The first courtier, who had boasted of his magical skills, stepped forward to face the djinn, and threw at it his greatest, most terrible spells; but the djinn merely took the magics and returned them with double the force, driving the courtier out of the palace.

Next the second courtier, who had boasted of dismissing three djinns, stepped up, but the great djinn treated him in the same way as the first. So it happened with each of the caliph’s courtiers in turn, as each threw at the djinn the greatest magics they possessed, and each was summarily dismissed. The caliph began to grow anxious, and feared that this apparition would never be defeated, so he called his vizier to him.

Now this vizier was a wise, cunning man, and although he had not studied magic himself, he was acquainted with the ways of evil spirits.

He bowed low to the caliph, and said, “Sire, you have asked me how you may bring about the banishment of this evil djinn which is wreaking destruction on your court. There is only one way in which this can be achieved. It cannot be defeated by magic, but instead must be tricked into bringing about its own downfall. If you will give me your permission, I will attempt this task.”

“I grant you my permission,” said the caliph, “and furthermore, if you can rid my kingdom of this djinn, I will renounce my crown and you, as my heir, will become caliph in my stead.”

The vizier bowed, and went to face the djinn, taking with him one of the courtiers with some little skill in magic. The courtier cast first one spell at the great djinn, and then another, but each was treated as before, leaving the courtier weak and chastened. The third spell, as with the first two, the djinn dismissed contemptuously, and it laughed at the weakness of humans; but this time the vizier, with great cunning, collected the powerful magic and turned it on the djinn, who in its arrogance had ignored the vizier because he had no magic of his own. The djinn screamed as it was engulfed in a great column of flame, which rose higher and higher until it was suddenly extinguished, leaving behind only a pile of ash.

There was great joy and feasting amongst all the company at the banishment of the djinn. The caliph was as good as his word, and resigned his throne to the vizier, who became a wise and well-loved leader and passed the rest of his days happily, and the djinn was never seen in the palace again.

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