Scheherazade’s magic carpet

[An honourable mention from Julie Blosser, who writes:
“I’ve always loved the story of the Thousand and One Nights, and I think Scheherazade must have been an incredible and well-educated woman. I love the idea that she would have a wide variety of skills, including knitting, story-telling, and smattering of practical magic. I also love magic carpets. Think of what a compendium of wonderful things they are — a useful home furnishing, a means of transportation, a work of art, and an enchantment. The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit was part of my inspiration for this carpet.”
Julie submitted a lovely illustration, which for some reason MT is not displaying properly, and alas I’m not geeky enough to figure out why. Sorry. By the way, who else here is an E Nesbit fan? Wonderful stuff!
]
It came to pass that Scheherazade, weary from telling tales to the king, sent for her sister to bring wool, silks, and needles from her father’s home to while away the hours of the night. And when her sister had come, Scheherazade touched the skeins and saw in her mind’s eye what they would become — a carpet, not a carpet to cushion her dainty feet on the king’s marble floors, but something rarer, requiring greater skill.
Night upon night she worked with the deep blue wool her young sister wound in balls for her, the king nearly as mesmerized by the thread in her fingers as by the thread of her tale. The rosewood needles clicked and clacked gently with the rise and fall of her voice. She worked steadily on, knitting each stitch together with the magic of
her story.
As the nights wore on, the carpet grew. It grew to cover Scheherazade’s lap, then spilled across the shining floor. At last it spanned the distance between her own silken cushion and the bed where the king reclined. It was enough. But as she looked at his face, she hesitated. Filled with danger as her life in the palace was, she was not yet ready to give it up.
So she cast on again and knit broad bands in the glass-green of Sinbad’s sea, stranded with gold of burning sands and magicians’ hoards. Slender ribbons of blood-crimson she worked as she told a tale of sisters turned to hounds,
forced to endure beatings before their curse was broken. Silver-white of moonlight and tinkling fountains swirled with velvety purple shadows where where thieves and lovers hid.
At last came the night Scheherazade had dreaded for a thousand nights. The king sent her away well before dawn. She saw him rise to pace his chamber as she left, and feared the worst. On coming to her own apartment she sent her sister back to their father’s house, and dismissed her attendants. Then she cut shimmering silk and knotted it into a shining fringe at each end of her carpet. After she tied the last knot and straightened the last thread, she knelt upon the carpet, tears quivering in her eyes. If her tales had failed, if she could no longer save the maidens of her beloved country, at least she would not stay here to die.
Laying her hands on the soft fibers, she commanded the carpet to carry her away to the place she would be happiest in all the world.
A breeze began to blow through the open window, billowing the curtains and weaving its tendrils into Scheherazade’s cinder-black hair. The breeze grew to a wind, and the wind grew to a gale as the carpet rose
from the floor and floated out into the night. She looked down on the palace gardens as the carpet hovered for a moment, then shot out over the city. The carpet flew swiftly over tiled domes and gold-capped minarets, past the humbler dwellings of the common denizens of the city, and at last over the city wall. It flashed past desert sands, wide seas, snow-frosted mountains, and forests primeval until it was moving so fast Scheherazade could only grip the silken fringes, close her eyes, and hope it would stop. Then, suddenly, without a heave or a lurch, she realized she had stopped, and only a faint breeze brushed her skin. She smelled jasmine in the air. Stepping off the carpet, she opened her eyes and found herself in her own garden. The carpet slipped away into the palace as Scheherazade saw the king approach her with a smile and hands outstretched. His terrible order had been rescinded. Taking the hands of her beloved, her husband, she searched her heart and found a deep well of happiness there, now unclouded by fear.
Was this love only what had been there all along, or did the magic of all the happy endings Scheherazade had knit into her carpet make her wish come true? Scheherazade never knew, and the carpet kept its own counsel. The only sign it gave was three gold stars that appeared in the blue.
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