It was while Shah a Razad was telling the fifth tale that she noticed her blouse and the Sultan’s fascination with it, and faltered in her telling.
“..and the mule did what?” the Sultan nudged her shoulder, or maybe it was just an excuse to touch her. “Mule…mule?” Shah’s mind was blank, a dangerous thing to allow to happen if she wanted to keep breathing, wished to still be alive. “Mule, mule!” the Sultan was impatient now, and his anger showed, “you said, Ali Baba’s mule was to smuggle gold into the town, underneath all that straw!” Sultan Es Kandar was shouting by then, red in the face.
“Oh, mule,” Shah quickly improvised, hoping to retain the Sultan’s attention, “the mule had at one time, eighty-five bars of gold, stacked on top of each other, hidden by the yellow of the straw.”
“And no one noticed?”
“No one,” replied Shah, relieved that the Sultan’s face was back to his normal pale colouring. “One little boy did however…”
Shah did not expect the Sultan to remain awake for much longer. As fond as he was of the variations in her entertainment, the grief that he had carried for so long always burdened his eyelids and closed them long before the cock greeted the Fajr and the muezzin stirred.
“And how did the little boy know?” Sultan Es Kandar, ruler of Mahderabaad for seventeen years was feeling more generous with his patience now, and began to lightly trace the flower pattern intricately embroidered on the front of Shah’s silk red blouse.
“The mule’s lungs, your Highness,” Shah was decidedly nervous then, and perhaps more than slightly aroused noticing the contrast of the Sultan’s finger against the deep scarlet of the embroidery, “the mule’s lungs were hugely inflated, my Sultan, from exertion far greater than required for just straws – that was how the boy noticed.”