By Rhea Mahajan

The new year began, marking the second year of Shahrazed marrying Shahrayar. She started a new cycle of stories and once again started the first night with a new story.

First Night

Once, in a land far away, four friends decided to leave their rural hometown of Amasyar to go and travel around the world and become experienced. Cyra, a witty and bold girl, the leader, with features that seemed cat-like (bright green eyes, midnight hair, bronzed skin) at times, was the one who proposed the idea of going on a worldwide adventure. Thinking that this was another one her jests, Azure- a delicate, and rather naive, blue-eyed, brown-haired girl- who was often the damsel in distress in any situation- playfully agreed. Faraz, a quiet and patient boy of 19 with golden hair and brown eyes- also the water to Cyra’s fire-, also joined Cyra in her journey. He knew that a peacemaker would be needed on a trip like the one she proposed. Kian, the last member of the group and Faraz’s older brother, was a broad-shouldered, puppy-like, chocolate eyed boy who was considered the muscle of the quartet; he was also secretly in love with Azure and hoped this voyage would give him an opportunity to be a hero. Eventually, after all their belongings were packed and affairs managed, the four friends set off toward unknown lands and distant adventures.

After 2 days of crossing the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, using the help of a sea dragon scales to speed their sea voyage- which were as cold as ice and had pearly luminance; to use them, they had to be crushed by a marble mortar to retain its magical properties and then immediately put in a raging fire to stop the scale from becoming resurrected.

Second Night

When their ship, The Black Pearl, arrived on the shores of an Agrabad, on the coast of Arabia, Cyra noticed a struggling stallion- a majestic creature with a black coat that had golden waves in its fur pattern, a long golden man, and two spiraling ivory horns in place behind his ears– as he was hauled away from the busy port- overflowing with merchants (and their wares), officers, and locals- toward a dingy boat with a flying flag that depicted a bloody sword crossed over a bag of coins. The friends decided to go investigate; Kian suggested that they might find their first adventure there, and Azure felt sympathy for the straining horse. After deboarding the ship, the friends made their way toward where they saw the horse and his captors go. As they near the tiny ship, more of a fishing boat than a vessel meant to sail the choppy waves, the friends hear chuffing noises and the sound of a whip cracking against thick skin. Azure became frightened and decided to stay where they were hiding, instead of continuing with her partners.

Cyra, Faraz, and Kian continued forward- taking care to keep to the shadows so as not to be seen by the men seemingly kidnapping the large warhorse. On the way to the location of the horse, the friends had deduced that the horse the men were taking was kidnapped from the stables of a rich noble- the equid had a proud bearing and a glossy coat that seemed clean, regardless of its dirty surroundings. Faraz had noted that the men who were holding the horse seemed too poor to maintain such a great beauty.

The plan the four had come up with was fairly simple.

Third Night

Cyra, Faraz, and Kian- the leader, the brains, the muscle- all continued on their journey toward the mighty stallion and his kidnappers. They had planned on the following actions while traveling to their final destination.

First, Faraz and Cyra would wander into the clearing where the men were resting, so as to appear that they had unknowingly come across the hidden place. While they would make small talk with the men, acting oblivious to their surroundings, Kian would surreptitiously make his way to shed where the stallion was being stored. Once Kian untied the horse and made his way to the entrance of the shd, he would ride the horse between the men and his friends, giving them time to make themselves scarce and meet Azure at their inn. Azure had decided to find out from the local people about who the owner of the horse was, so he could be returned soon to his home.

The plan was successfully completed by the three friends. They did not have to put much effort into saving the stallion because the men had become drunk after the horse was put away and had quickly fallen into a deep slumber. As the three make their way to their inn, The Seafarer’s Bed, with the large horse they garnered strange looks from the townspeople- some of curiosity and others of astonishment. The friends soon learned why.

Fourth Night

Once Cyra, Faraz, and Kian had settled into their room, Azure shared with them the information she had discovered. In short, she had found out that the mighty horse they had lodged in the inn’s stable actually belonged to not a noble, but a king. After her friends got over their surprise, Azure proposed that they take the horse to the king and use that opportunity to ask the king for jobs. She wanted to stay in Agrabad because she liked the town and its people, as well as their interesting customs which she learned about on her information gathering tour.

The friends reluctantly agreed, for they still wanted to explore the world, but compromised by saying that the would stay only for a few months.

The next day, the quartet set out toward the distant, floating palace of King Darian the Second. The journey was difficult; very long and hot as the path was through a desert. As the gleaming gold walls and domed roofs, all sitting on top of  voluminous silver cloud, became larger and nearer, the friends started to become slightly apprehensive. All the people they had passed while traveling to the palace seemed trance-like or under a spell. When they were very near the palace, odd howling noises and screams seemed to be coming from inside. Faraz, not wanting to scare his friends, confidently said that he thought it was the wind- not showing his own fear for he truly believed that their was evil magic within the walls of the gold palace of King Darian. The friends knew they must have courage and be bold when in the presence of the unknown.