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How prince Hamid the Nine-fingered rode the most excellent ghost-horse and what happened in the palace afterward

“If you want to ride the most excellent ghost-horse you have to feed her one of your fingers,” the Magus told prince Hamid. “She’ll recognize you as her master from then on.”

With a whole kingdom to win and Yashinna’s hand as well, it seemed the prince a small price to pay.

He strode into the bone-paved cave and saw two eyes regarding him, glowing like living sapphires.

“Another hero come to die?” the horse inquired with the most beautiful contralto Hamid had ever heard.

“I just want to ride you,” Hamid answered and offered his hand.

The monster horse instantly bit Hamid’s right index finger off, crunching the bones between her strong teeth, and nodded.

“You will do as a rider. Your blood and bones taste of righteous anger and awful revenge. I like my days interesting and love to smell the smoke rising from burning villages and once splendid palaces.”

The ghost-horse now, she was as changeable as an octopus, able to blend into her surroundings. She could glide through the corridors of a palace, becoming as colorful as the goblins on the walls or white and pale while traversing a field of lilies. Her bite was venomous, with a poison so potent a whiff would make a mongoose blanch and skitter away.

Her hooves were living diamond and could dent the very best bronze armor or shatter the cedarwood beam of a city-gate.

Best of all, she could run for two days and two nights before she finally had to halt and drink the blood of a mountain lion or a wild bull.

Having a warhorse and the Glass Spear Hamid took the road back to Isfahan, to confront his traitorous uncle. That Yashinna, his true love, was his uncle’s oldest daughter would complicate matters some, for how can a dead father give his blessings to the marriage? but no doubt his Wise Hawk would come up with a clever ruse.

At sunset, with the sky red as Burmese gold, his circling hawk screeched a warning: a dozen Seljuks emerged from behind a butte and attacked. Hamid’s spear skewered three and the horse took care of the rest.

“It is a bit early and I’m not really thirsty, master,” the horse said, “But it seems a waste to let so much fresh blood drain into the dry sand.”

“Drink as much as you want,” Hamid said.

Halfway they met a patrol of his uncle, as the Chronicle of Hamid the Nine-fingered says: “To their sorrow.”

Getting into the palace unseen was no problem if you ride a horse who can sniff out any secret passage or walk straight up a city wall.

He found his uncle sitting on the Peacock throne, wearing the red turban and double topaz of a shah of Persia.

Hamid’s true love Yashinna perched on his knee, an arm around his neck: a situation which Hamid took rather aback. Yashinna had professed to hate her father, who had her mother strangled when she spilled a drop of wine on his new slippers. “The hero who kills my father,” she had whispered in Hamid’s ear, “gains my hand and incidentally the kingdom also.”

The false shah looked up and Hamid saw he wasn’t his uncle after all because the face wore the bulbous nose and the wispy goatee of the Magus.

“You killed him!” Hamid blurted.

“I let Yashinna put his head on a stick, right in front of the city gate,” the magus said. “You didn’t notice him?”

“The hero who kills my father marries me,” Yashinna cooed. “That was my promise.”

“But why did you help me?” Hamid cried. “Without your counsel, I would have never found the Wise Hawk or been able to steal the Glass Spear from the tomb of the corpse-devouring ghouls! The ghost-horse would just have killed me if I tried to tame her without offering my finger first…”

“I have long coveted the Wise Hawk and the Glass Spear,” the Magus said, ” but I wasn’t willing to pay the price. When the Wise hawk scratched your wrist he took half your soul away so you’ll be barred from both Heaven and Hell and are doomed to become a hungry and wandering ghost after you die. And the Spear…”

Hiram didn’t let him finish his gloating speech and cried: “Kill him, my horse! I gave you my finger to become your master.”

The Magus laughed and raised his right hand and Hamid saw that two fingers were missing.

“But I fed her first,” the Magus said, and there the Chronicle of Prince Hamid the Nine-fingered ends.

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