The Magician's Horse: Part Two
While the entire kingdom prepared for the Prince's wedding celebration, the magician plotted his revenge. Bitter about being locked away, he did his best not to let his malice show.
"The Princess should ride to her wedding on my horse," the magician offered. "I will lead the beast myself, to ensure that nothing goes wrong this time."
As the princess gratefully sat upon the horse, ready to ride to her wedding, the magician lept upon the horse behind her and lifted them into the air.
"Stop!" the princess cried, but the magician only laughed and launched them higher into the sky.
"Come back!" the prince shouted from the ground below, but in an instant he disappeared on the horizon.
The magician transported them to a distant forest and landed deep within the trees.
"Take me back this instant!" the princess cried. But the magician only laughed again, pleased to have his revenge on the royal family.
"Help! Someone, please!"
"No one can hear you out here," the magician sneered.
"What is this?" a deep voice called from the trees. The two turned to find a huge man dressed in rugged clothes stepping toward them.
The magician's eyes grew wide. "This does not concern you. My wife and I were only having an argument."
"He's lying," the princess said, stumbling away from the man and his horse. "I am a princess, and this wicked man kidnapped me."
More men traipsed out of the underbrush surrounding them. As the princess studied them, it became clear that the large man was a bandit chief, and that these were his bandits.
"Seize the old man," the bandit chief shouted, pointing at the magician. He held out his hand to the princess and bowed. "Come with me, dear princess. I will keep you safe."
Relieved, the princess followed the bandit chief and followed him to his castle deep in the woods.
The next morning, when the princess awoke, she felt safe and rested. However, she soon overheard whispers among the servants about a wedding.
"Is someone to be married?" she asked.
"Of course, it is you!" the maid answered.
The princess gasped, realizing that the chief had never intended to let her leave when he took her in and promised to "keep her safe".
With a dramatic wail, she lifted her arms in the air and pretended to swoon. As she fell to the floor, the servants rushed to her side to assist her.
"She was so overjoyed by the news, that she has fainted," one of the servants muttered.
Concerned that her performance was so easily mistaken for joy, the princess opened her eyes and began to mumble unintelligible words.
"She is ill! Quick! Fetch help!" they shouted. But no matter who came to assist the princess, she continued to feign delirium. The bandit chief was distraught that his beautiful prize had so quickly fallen ill and offered a reward to anyone who could bring a cure.
As soon as the princess had been stolen away by the magician, the prince rode off toward the horizon to find his lost bride. He asked everyone he passed if they had seen a magician on an ebony horse with a beautiful maiden. Before long, he heard a strange rumor that a bandit chief had saved a beautiful woman from an evil magician. But before he could marry her, a horrible curse had left her mad.
Convinced that it must be his true love, the prince rode off to find the bandit's castle. He bought some robes from the nearest village and disguised himself as a doctor and presented himself to the bandit chief.
"Have you come to cure my love?" The chief asked.
The prince nodded. "Take me to the girl."
The princess, when she saw her beloved disguised as a doctor, led into the room by the bandit chief, pretended to faint. The prince rushed to her side and yelled to the servants. "Leave us! She needs a doctor's care."
As soon as they were alone, the princess threw her arms around the prince. "We must work out a plan to escape."
They whispered in low voices, and formed a cunning trick for the bandit chief.
When the prince emerged from the room, he approached the bandit chief with his fingers pressed thoughtfully to his lips. "In order to cure the princess, I must know more about the magician who brought her to your forest."
"The evil man carried her through the air on a magical horse."
The prince threw his head back and laughed. "Why of course! That is the cause of the madness. The horse passed it's magic into her. If we can only pass the magic back, she will be cured.
The bandit chief eagerly brought the horse into his courtyard, and ordered the princess carried out to greet it. While the bandit chief laid the princess carefully in the saddle, the prince built a bonfire and threw in strange plants, chanting all the while.
Thick, aromatic smoke drifted around the courtyard, curling around the princess and the horse. The bandit watched in amazement as she was swallowed up completely by the haze.
Not wasting a moment, the prince cast off his doctor disguise, mounted the horse behind the princess and threw the lever, lifting the horse into the air.
"Stop!" The bandit chief shouted, realizing he had been tricked, but the prince and princess were quickly flying back to Persia.
The next day they were married, and the magical ebony horse found a special place in the Sultan's treasure house. However, the bandit chief and the magician were left with absolutely nothing, which is what they deserved.
You can find this story in Richard Burton's translation of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.