One day, a year after their wedding, the king decided to pay a surprise visit to his wife’s boudoir in the late afternoon. He thought she would forgive his interruption of her nap, for he could not wait until night for the pleasure of holding her in his arms. His anticipation turned his stomach when the king swept into the queen’s private quarters to find the lush body of his wife entwined with the powerful physique of one of his warriors.
The large black eyes of the young queen widened at the sight of her husband, who stood frozen in the doorway. Numb with shock, the king felt repulsed by the woman who opened her lips to plead with him. Closing his eyes to break the gaze that chained him to the woman who had just dishonored him on the golden bed he had given to her, the first thing the king saw when he opened them was the mosaic of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. The brightly colored jewels told a story that now made a mockery of the king and his pitiful love. Looking down at the woman he’d made a queen and her lover, the king felt his broken heart turn to stone.
Deaf to his wife’s entreaties, the king pulled his sword from its sheath, shouting his curses to the whore and the wretch in his castle. With his sword gleaming above his head, the ruler charged the bed, but the brave young soldier took his mistress in his arms, and fled the queen’s bedroom.
The warrior was as strong as he was fast, but it was no use. The rest of the king’s army had come to his aid, and the treacherous lovers never made it to the castle door before they were surrounded.
The trial was immediate and swift. The unworthy queen and her lover were beheaded on the stroke before midnight, naked as they were found in the act of their disgrace.
This vengeance was not enough to quench the rage that poisoned the king’s broken heart.
Two days after his wife’s execution, the king married the prettiest maiden in his kingdom in the morning and spent the day consummating their bond as husband and wife – a bond broken only through death.
That night, the king dined with his new bride, who chatted happily through the lavish supper prepared in her honor. When he was finished with his meal, the king dabbed at his mouth with a silk napkin, stood up, and without a word, turned his back on his wife, and left the room. The young queen’s pain at the show of disrespect from her husband turned to horror when the king’s army stormed the dining room and placed her under arrest.
That night, the new queen, sobbing and pleading with her captors, met with the axe-man who beheaded her on the stroke before midnight.
The next morning, the king married the prettiest girl in his kingdom and spent the day consummating their marriage, only to have her executed just before midnight. The next day, the king married the prettiest girl in the land only to have her beheaded before the day’s end.
And the next. And the next.
In the king’s mind twisted by his poisoned heart, this was the only way he could make sure he was never humiliated and betrayed again because his wife would never have the chance.
The word of the king’s atrocities spread fast. Monarchs from more powerful countries broke their alliances with the psychotic ruler, refusing him entrance and ignoring his invitations to visit him. Monarchs from less powerful countries graciously welcomed him into their domains, where the king was baffled that the only people he saw were mature mothers, men and boys of all ages, and little girls under the age of five.
“Where are all the fair maidens?” the king would ask of his host, a man who was almost, but not quite, his equal.
“We don’t have any,” the host would reply with a warm smile.
The parents had locked up their daughters before the king’s visit and wouldn’t let them out until a couple of days after his departure.
The unfortunate parents of the king’s home nation dared not refuse him their daughter when their lord and master came calling for his new bride, and then prayed for forgiveness for sending their child to an execution she’d done nothing to deserve.
It took a few years, but the day came when there were no more maidens to marry…except for the two who were the daughters of his grand vizier, whose advice the king depended on. That didn’t stop the king from knocking on his door at dawn, dressed in his wedding garments.
Welcoming his master into his study, the king’s most trusted advisor felt sick in his heart as he excused himself to approach his lovely daughters. Looking to the elder daughter with defeated eyes, the father was interrupted when his younger daughter stood.
“Although I know it is the custom that the elder shall marry before the younger,” she said, “I would appreciate it, dear father, if I were allowed to marry the king first, with my sister as my lady-in-waiting.”
The Grand Vizier looked into the soft brown eyes of Scheherazade, who looked at him without fear. He glanced to her older sister, who didn’t seem at all surprised. She nodded her approval with Scheherazade’s idea. Knowing it didn’t make any difference in the fate of his daughters who would die that evening, the Grand Vizier to the king held out his arm to present his daughter to her betrothed.
Scheherazade said her vows to love, honor, and cherish her husband until death do them part in a calm, clear voice, looking into the king’s eyes the whole time. Although not as lovely as the sister who stood behind her, the king was intrigued by the intelligent expression in her eyes, and he found her voice pleasing. The voice of his new bride was clear as a bell and she almost sounded as if she were singing the sacred words of her wedding vows. As the man and wife marched down the aisle, with rice being rained on them by their honored guests, the king looked forward to the day of consummation that was to immediately follow the wedding.
Scheherazade had made one request of the king. She would be grateful if her husband would allow her sister to dine with them that evening. Her husband was gracious as he gave permission.
That evening, as the first course was being served, the two sisters looked at each other for a second.
“My Queen and dear sister,” said her lady-in-waiting, “would you care to entertain us with a tale during supper this evening?”
Curious, the king looked up and raised his brows.
“Scheherazade tells the most wonderful stories,” she explained as she bowed her head in deference to the king.
“Oh?” asked the king. “Does she really?”
Scheherazade looked to the raging psychopath she had just married, and shrugged with a charming smile.
“Oh mighty king…if it pleases you, it would be my honor.”
The king looked at his wife and sister-in-law, who looked back at him with mild looks and demure smiles. The sound of his wife’s voice singing in his memory, he nodded.
“I think it would,” the king said, as he took a bite of his food and settled back in his chair.
“Once upon a time…”
And thus Scheherazade began a tale that held the king’s attention so tightly, he had to be nudged by the servant to remember to keep eating his dinner. Her story was so mesmerizing that the king waved off the soldiers who had arrived at the usual time to arrest his wife.
Puzzled, the soldiers looked at each other and stood back, to await the king’s command to come forth. Within moments, they too became captivated by the steady rhythm of their queen’s speech, losing themselves in the story of intrigue that she wove.
Just when the story was at its fever pitch with the king sitting on the edge of his seat, Scheherazade stopped talking and sat back.
The king widened his eyes and shook his head.
“That can’t be it! What happened?”
Scheherazade sighed and yawned without delicacy, just barely covering her mouth with her hands.
“Dear husband, I’m too fatigued to continue.” Her words came slowly. “I’ll tell you how the story ends tomorrow.”
The king sat there with his mouth hanging open as the gentle eyes of his wife looked to the soldiers at his back and then back to her husband. Scheherazade grinned a little and arched her brows.
“That is…if you really want to hear it.”
Scheherazade and the sister the king would marry in the morning if he beheaded his wife that night looked calmly to their lord and master, who was more than a little aggravated with his wife.
The king had his honor to protect, after all.
But if he had Scheherazade killed that night, he would never find out how the story ended…and he would always wonder. After a moment’s serious meditation on the matter, the king decided one more day with Scheherazade as his wife would cause no harm, so he granted her pardon for that night, and ordered his soldiers to return at the same time the following evening.
The soldiers were early, for they too wanted to hear how the story ended before they arrested their queen who would be put to death.
The next day, the king and queen spent the afternoon consummating their sacred bond as husband and wife, only getting out of bed to dress for dinner. As she’d promised, Scheherazade finished the tale from the night before, and the ending did not disappoint. But as the second course of her last supper was being served, she started another tale.
Again, the king’s attention was captured and he neglected to order his wife to stop speaking. As she did on the previous night, when the king was on the edge of his seat to hear what would happen next, Scheherazade stopped talking, claiming exhaustion and promising the end of the story the following night.
One of the soldiers in the back of the line figured ouf what his queen was up to, and smiled to himself.
Because again, the king could not resist the lure of his wife’s story, and stayed her execution for another night.
And another. And another. And another.
Scheherazade kept it up for one thousand and one nights, making love to her husband by day and intriguing her captors by night. Holding the king’s gaze with her soft brown eyes, her soothing voice weaving lyrics of honor, courage, and integrity, as well as seduction and intrigue, Scheherazade kept her husband enthralled until the night came when she had no more stories to tell.
On that last night, as Scheherazade finished her tale, she stood to go with the army who waited at the king’s back.
“What are you doing?” asked the king.
“I have no more stories,” the queen said, nodding to the soldiers. “I’m ready to go with them.”
The king’s face went white, and the soldiers behind him felt sick to their stomachs as Scheherazade walked to meet her doom with her head high.
“You will do no such thing!” The king bellowed at the thought of never again hearing the beautiful voice of his wife in the evening. “I’ve forgotten the first story anyway. I need you to tell me again.”
The soldiers sighed in relief as they realized that the poisoned heart of their tormented king had finally healed and he believed in love again…