Stories From Arabian Nights - Adventures Of Ajib

 Adventures Of Ajib

I am prince Ajib and strange is my story. When I was in my teens, one day I heard an astrologer telling my father, "Your son is destined to cause someone's death in a month." "How unfortunate! Tell me, O Sage, how can my son evade this misfortune of becoming a killer?" asked my father. "Only one thing can change man's destiny and that is God's compassion. You must pray for your son as much as your son should pray for himself," advised the astrologer. My father did not know that I had overheard their conversation. He did not tell me of the prophecy. But from that very day, he kept me under strict supervision. He did not let me go out to play as and when I liked, nor did he let my friends come and meet me freely Time and again he asked me to pray! This I did not like. I had no inclination to pray and I did not believe that I could cause death to somebody. The restrictions my father put on me annoyed me very much.

One night I escaped from the palace and did not stop until my horse took me to the harbor. I saw a foreign ship preparing to leave the harbor. I met the captain and greeted him warmly and expressed a desire to sail with him. "I don't object to having an able-bodied young man in my ship if he is willing to assist me," said the captain. I promised to be obedient and he took me in. We sailed forth early in the morning. I was thrilled to be in the vast sea and I dreamt of unknown lands and unknown pleasures. After a week a strong cyclone struck us. We could not keep our ship in our control. The wild wind pushed it far into the waters, away from its designed course. After a few days, the rain subsided and the sky was clear. I was happy to locate a hill on the horizon. I called out for the captain who was worried because we were running out of drinking water and food. "We can lay at anchor along this shore and gather water and food," said I, drawing his attention to the hill. "We can," said the captain happily, but the very next moment his face paled and he shouted out to his crew, "Take the ship away from the magnet mountain!" "What is a magnet mountain, Sir?" I asked. The captain had no time to answer. We did our best to change the course of our ship. But to my horror I saw the bolts, screws, nails, and poles, anything made of iron, getting loose. We had already come within the range of the mountain's magnetic pull over iron.

Soon, like arrows, the iron elements of our ship shot towards the mountain. The frame of the ship got loose and began to fall apart. There were heart-rending cries, but in no time all became silent. The ship disappeared, its inmates all drowned. I lay on a plank and after an hour's rowing with my arms, reached the mountain. I saw that it was a small island. There was nothing on it save the mountain, not even a blade of grass which I could chew to appease my hunger. It was certain that I would die. No ship was to be seen anywhere around. No ship was likely to come there because everybody avoided the mountain. I decided to lie down, waiting for death. I was shivering in cold. I found a sheepskin coat lying on a rock. Perhaps it belonged to some mariner who had been flung on the island someday in the past. I put on the coat and buttoned it well and lay asleep. I woke up with a jerk and saw myself going up! I understood that a giant eagle was carrying me away. The sheepskin must have tempted it. 

At first, I decided to wriggle out of the coat and fall into the sea. But I changed my mind. Once sure that I was going to die anyway, I decided to wait and see. The eagle rose quite high and then descended on another island. It was a much bigger island, green with tall bushy trees and a hill. Scarcely had the eagle put me down on the hill when I rolled down and reached the foot of the hill. Then I stood up, threw away the sheepskin, and began to run. The eagle swooped down on the sheepskin and flew away with it. I found a ripe jackfruit and ate it to my heart's content. There was also a stream nearby to quench my thirst. Then I climbed the tallest tree to have a wide glimpse of the island. To my great joy, I saw a small ship casting anchor on the shore. I was about to run towards it, but I checked myself. Who knows if it did not belong to pirates? They might enslave me! I waited atop the tree. Soon an old man, looking like a king, and a young man, probably his son emerged from the ship. They were followed by a number of men who appeared to be their bodyguards. They stopped under a tree that was not far from mine. Under it there was a slab of stone. They removed the slab and a staircase was revealed. They disappeared into it. I waited quite confounded. After an hour they came out, all but one. They shut the passage with the slab and moved away slowly. The king was seen wiping his eyes. The one left behind was the young man. They boarded the ship and sailed away.

I climbed down. "I must save the young man who remains underground, unless they have already killed him," I told myself. I removed the slab and took the staircase. At the bottom of the staircase spread a large hall, well furnished and lighted with candles. In a corner, leaning against a bejeweled bolster, sat the young man, reading a book. As soon as his eyes fell on me he cried out in fear. I knelt down before him and said that he had no fear from me. He recovered his calm. I told him all about my adventure but did not tell him the prophecy which set me forth into the wide world. He was happy. "For some strange reason, known to my father, I have to live here for three weeks after which my father, the king, will come to take me. I was expected to be alone. But that is so distressing! I am happy to get you for a companion!" he said. We lived happily. The delicious food stored for the prince would have sufficed for a whole family for a month! Days passed. "One day more and I will go back home. You must accompany me and remain with me forever, well?" the prince asked me excitedly. The next day some strange thought came to his mind. He said, "My friend, I will play a prank on my father. When you hear the slab being shifted, stand at the bottom of the staircase holding a dagger in your hands. My father would think that you are a bandit who has finished me off! I will be behind you to give a hearty laugh at his discomfiture!" I had no objection to this. The moment we heard the sound of the slab being removed, I stood at the staircase, feigning a sinister look and holding a dagger.

The first to see me was the old king. He gave out a cry and fell down. I and his son ran up to him. His own ministers and bodyguards lifted him up. He was carried to the open. But he was found to have died of shock! His chief minister sighed and said, "Alas! There was a prophecy that within a fortnight the prince would either get killed by someone or cause his father's death. The king naturally was more concerned about his son than himself. So he kept him in safety here, but, the prank invented by the prince killed him." Said another minister, "We told the king that the time was not yet past. He should wait till tomorrow. But he calculated it differently and was too impatient to wait." Said the chief minister again, "It was good in a way. Had the prince died, the king would have died too. That would have been a much bigger tragedy!" Little did I suspect that I was also fulfilling a prophecy! Through the prince's courtesy, I returned home. I told my father everything and then said in conclusion, "Father because you were praying for me, I was saved the sin of knowingly killing somebody. Had I listened to you and prayed myself, I would have been saved the shock of even unknowingly causing someone's death." "You have grown wiser. That is some consolation, my son!" said my father.

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